Is depression in old age fatal only when people feel lonely?

Max L. Stek*, David J. Vinkers, Jacobijn Gussekloo, Aartjan T.F. Beekman, Roos C. Van Der Mast, Rudi G.J. Westendorp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: The impact of depression and perceived loneliness in the oldest old is largely unknown. The authors studied the relationship between the presence of depressive symptoms and all-cause mortality in old age, especially the potential distorting effect of perceived loneliness. Method: Within a prospective population-based study of 85-year-olds, the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale and the Loneliness Scale were annually applied in all 476 participants with a Mini-Mental State Examination score of 18 points or more. Results: Depression was present in 23% and associated with marital state, institutionalization, and perceived loneliness. When depression and perceived loneliness were assessed during follow-up, neither depression nor perceived loneliness had a significant effect on mortality. However, those who suffered from both depression and feelings of loneliness had a 2.1 times higher mortality risk. Conclusions: The data suggest that the increased mortality risk attributable to depression in the presence of perceived loneliness may result from motivational depletion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-180
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005

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