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Major Depression Increases Risk of Death in Older Adults

Update Date: Jul 01, 2014 10:47 AM EDT

Major depression can be a highly debilitating disease that prevents people from carrying out daily activities. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of major depression on older American adults' lifespan. They discovered that the mental illness greatly increases risk of death in adults aged 50 and older.

"There's a major link between major depression and mortality. Taking all these other health behaviors out of it, you can continue to find this unique relationship between depression and mortality," said Jarron M. Saint Onge, a KU assistant professor of sociology and the study's lead author reported by Medical Xpress. "There's something that's leading to early death. And that's taking out smoking, taking out exercise, all these behavioral factors that would explain it."

In this study, Saint Onge and colleagues examined mortality data taken from the 1999 National Health Interview Study tied to the 2006 National Death Index. There were a total of 11,369 adults aged 50 and above. 2,162 of them had died due to non-suicide or accident-linked deaths. The researchers used the World Health Organization's (WHO) Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short-Form (CIDI-SF) to measure depression.

They discovered that independent of other factors, such as marital status, education level, employment, body mass and chronic health issues, major depression increased one's risk of death by 43 percent. Major depression was tied to a 2.68 times greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease for adults who did not suffer from heart disease at the start of the study.

"What we're finding here is it's important to be vigilant to find depression among people older than 50 because of a host of reasons," Saint Onge said. "It's important because of its relationship with health-compromising behaviors, but it's also important because it stands as an independent risk factor in mortality. There might be something unique about depression, taking aside all of your other behaviors, that there's something about depression that might lead to an increased risk of mortality."

The study, "The Relationship Between Major Depression and Nonsuicide Mortality for U.S. Adults: The Importance of Health Behaviors," was published in the Journals of Gerontology.

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