Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether endogenous steroid hormone levels are associated with depressed mood in community-dwelling older women.
Design: A cross-sectional population-based study.
Setting: Rancho Bernardo, California
Participants: A total of 699 non-estrogen using, community-dwelling, postmenopausal women (aged 50 to 90 years) from the Rancho Bernardo cohort who were screened for depressed mood and had plasma obtained for steroid hormone assays in 1984-1987.
Measurements: Plasma levels of total and bioavailable (non-SHBG-bound) estradiol and testosterone, estrone, androstenedione, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone, and (DHEA) and its sulfate (DHEAS) were measured by radioimmunoassay. Mood and depression were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory.
Results: Only DHEAS levels were significantly and inversely associated with depressed mood, and the association was independent of age, physical activity, and weight change (P = .0002). Age, sedentary lifestyle, and weight loss were positively associated with depressed mood. Alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, marital status, type of menopause, and season of testing were unassociated with depressed mood. A subset of 31 women with categorically defined depression had lower DHEAS levels compared with 93 age-matched nondepressed women (1.17 +/- 1.08 vs 1.57 +/- .98 micromol/L; P = .01).
Conclusions: These results add to the evidence that DHEA/S is a neuroactive steroid and point to the need for careful long-term clinical trials of DHEA therapy in older women with depressed mood.