A study led by a University of Rochester Medical Center researcher has revealed that people aged over 70 are at risk of suffering a major depressive episode if they are vulnerable to anxiety, worry and insecurity.
The findings from this prospective study by Paul R. Duberstein, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, showed that those who have working-class background have an elevated risk for depression in older age.
"We assume that because depression has not developed for people with these personality traits by the age of 70 that it won't develop. But even in older adulthood, these traits confer risk. Presumably something about aging helps take down the faįade or destroys the protective sheath that has kept them from significant depression," said Duberstein.
This study comes in line with a previous research in proving that women were at greater risk of depression in old age than men. In fact, it adds on to the knowledge of late-life depression and may in future help in the identification and treatment of people at risk.
"The findings suggest that long-standing personality traits can predict onset of depression into older adulthood," said Duberstein.
In order to gain a greater understanding of aging and age-related disorders, the researchers made use of the data from a multi-disciplinary study of 70-year-old residents of Goteborg, Sweden, that began in 1971. After the initial test, participants were examined over a 15-year period at the ages of 75, 79, 81, 83 and 85.
While conducting the current study, the researchers ruled out people at age 70 with dementia and other psychiatric disorders. Overall, they analysed the records of 275 people and found 59 cases of first lifetime episodes of depression after the age of 70.
"Although we are aware of no research on how people who are highly distress prone manage to stave off clinically significant depression, protective factors might play a role. Candidate protective factors include close personal relationships, rewarding occupations or meaningful hobbies, physical vigor and vitality, economic independence, and spiritual well-being. Processes related to aging might inexorably erode some of these protective factors," stated the authors of the study.
"This is a particularly important issue for older men, given their high suicide rate in many Western countries, and the observation that they often take their lives in the midst of a first lifetime episode of depression," they added.
The study is published in the May issue of the journal Psychological Medicine.