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Depression Is Contagious In Older Couples: Study

Update Date: May 02, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

A man or a woman married to a frail spouse is at a greater risk of getting depressed, a new study has found. According to the study, frailty and depression in elderly spouses are connected within couples. This means that old couples who spend most of their time together, even pass on their depressive symptoms and frailties to each other.

Frailty is a health condition which can make older adults more prone to disability, falls, hospitalization and a shorter lifespan. People are generally considered frail when they suffer from these three or more of these conditions including low body weight, weakness, physical inactivity, exhaustion, and slowness. The condition currently affects 10 percent of the people aged 65 years and above.

For the purpose of the study, the research team analyzed data from 1,260 married couples, aged 65 and older, which was collected during the Cardiovascular Health Study. The aim of the study was to examine the effects of frailty and depression on married couples, reported UPI.

It was found that the frailer an older person is, the more likely he or she is to get into the state of depression. Also, the more depressed an older person is, the higher is their chances of becoming frail. 

The spouses of frail or depressed people are more prone to develop the same condition, with increased chances of developing the other. Interestingly, the study found that older husbands were more prone to getting depressed and frail as compared to younger husbands, while older wives were not more depressed, but were frailer as compared to younger wives.

"Within individuals, greater frailty predicted greater subsequent depressive symptoms, and greater depressive symptoms predicted greater subsequent frailty," said Dr. Joan Monin, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, reported Daily Mail"Between spouses, an individual's greater frailty predicted the spouse's greater frailty, and an individual's greater depressive symptoms predicted the spouse's greater depressive symptoms."

The research team concluded that frailty and depression symptoms may be interrelated in older spouses. They have suggested that facilities those caring for the elderly should encourage couples to be physically and socially more active. The study findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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