Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Depression, Low 'Will to Live' Increase Mortality

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Depression, Low 'Will to Live' Increase Mortality

Article excerpt

ORLANDO -- Elderly patients who answer unenthusiastically when asked how long they would like to live may have a dramatically increased risk of dying within 2 years if this attitude is combined with even minor or subthreshold depression, according to some unexpected findings from the Philadelphia Quality of Life of Elders Study.

The findings highlight the importance of even subthreshold depression in this population, said Jana M. Mossey, Ph.D. "From a clinical perspective, when you ask a person how they are doing today you should be really paying attention to the answer," she said in an interview.

The study, which she presented as a poster at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, analyzed self-rated health, depression, and years of desired life (YDL) among 600 community-living elderly people (mean age 77 years) and compared this with their mortality rates within the 2 years following the interviews.

Predictably, among the 12% of subjects who died during this period, both poor self-rated health and depressive symptoms were risk factors for mortality, said Dr. Mossey, professor at Drexel University's School of Public Health in Philadelphia.

Although below-average YDL was not a risk factor by itself, it was a factor in the highest mortality risk when combined with depressive symptoms.

"Once you identify someone who is at increased risk [based on depressive symptoms], it's important to delve a bit further and find out what they're thinking about in terms of how they see themselves in the future and how long they want to go on the way they are. This is all information that's going to tell the doctor that here is a person who has high mortality risk and needs to be looked at through a different lens," she said.

After controlling for objective health status, poor self-rated health increased mortality risk by about 3. …

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