- David J Vinkers, research associate ()1,
- Jacobijn Gussekloo, senior lecturer1,
- Max L Stek, senior lecturer1,
- Rudi G J Westendorp, professor1,
- Roos C van der Mast, senior lecturer2
- 1 Section of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Department of General Internal Medicine, Leiden University Medical Centre, PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, Netherlands
- 2 Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands
- Correspondence to: D J Vinkers
- Accepted 19 July 2004
Objective To examine the temporal relation between depression and cognitive impairment in old age.
Design Prospective, population based study with four years of follow up.
Setting City of Leiden, the Netherlands.
Participants 500 people aged 85 years at recruitment.
Main outcome measures Annual assessments of depressive symptoms (15 item geriatric depression scale), global cognitive function (mini-mental state examination), attention (Stroop test), processing speed (letter digit coding test), and immediate and delayed recall (12 word learning test).
Results At 85 years old, participants' depressive symptoms and cognitive impairment were highly significantly correlated (P < 0.001). During follow up, an accelerated annual increase of depressive symptoms was associated with impaired attention (0.08 points (95% confidence interval 0.01 to 0.16)), immediate recall (0.17 points (0.09 to 0.25)), and delayed recall (0.10 points (0.02 to 0.18)) at baseline. In contrast, depressive symptoms at baseline were not related to an accelerated cognitive decline during follow up (P > 0.05).
Conclusion Caregivers should be aware of the development of depressive symptoms when cognitive impairment is present. However, the presence of depression only does not increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Contributors All authors participated in the planning, conduct, and reporting of the study. JG, MLS, RGJW, and RCvdM supervised and commented on all drafts. All authors approved the final manuscript. DJV is guarantor.
Funding This study was funded by unrestricted grants from the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (ZonMw) and the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethical approval The medical ethics committee of Leiden University Medical Centre approved the study.