Differences in psychosocial and health correlates of major and minor depression in medically ill older adults.
OBJECTIVES: To compare the differences in correlates of different levels of depression in medically ill hospitalized older adults. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A consecutive series of 542 patients aged 60 or older admitted to the medical inpatient services of Duke Hospital underwent a structured psychiatric evaluation administered by a psychiatrist. MEASUREMENT: A wide range of demographic, social, psychiatric, and physical health data were collected, and associations with major and minor depression were assessed. RESULTS: Compared with patients without depression, those with major depression were more likely to have a history of prior episodes of depression, higher dysfunctional attitude scores, greater overall severity of medical illness, cognitive impairment, and symptoms of pain or other somatic complaints. Specific medical diagnosis was less important a predictor of major depression than overall severity of medical illness. Compared with patients without depression, those with minor depression were more likely to report non-health-related stressors during the year before hospital admission, have a diagnosis of immune system disorder, and have greater severity of medical illness. When major and minor depression were compared directly, on the other hand, no significant differences were observed except for history of depression, and that relationship was weak and present only when the etiologic approach to diagnosis was used. CONCLUSION: During hospital admission, certain psychosocial, psychiatric, and physical health characteristics of older medical patients place them at high risk for different levels of depression. Patients with major and minor depression resemble each other more than they do patients without depression. These findings may help clinicians better understand the causes of different types of depression in this setting and lead to improved diagnosis and treatment.
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