According to a new study elderly patients who are depressed are more likely to be re-admitted to hospital. It has long been known that depression is linked to poor physical health, and this relationship may be especially common among older people. Researchers in Switzerland, studied over 300 patients on hospital admission, tested then for depression and then followed them up for six months. Those who were depressed were 40 per cent more likely to be re-admitted during this time and used more in-patient services. The researchers suspect that if the follow-up time had been longer, they might even have found higher mortality among the depressed patients.
The effect may be direct - impaired immunity may result from depression, for instance. Or it may be an indirect behavioural effect, with depressed patients being less motivated to take medication or otherwise follow medical directions. Another possibility is that depression is a symptom of an underlying physical illness that leads to the need for hospital re-admission. Whatever the reason, it could certainly be worthwhile diagnosing and treating depression more aggressively in older patients admitted to hospital.