Comorbidity of late life depression: an opportunity for research on mechanisms and treatment

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Sep 15;52(6):543-58. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01468-3.


Late life depression principally affects individuals with other medical and psychosocial problems, including cognitive dysfunction, disability, medical illnesses, and social isolation. The clinical associations of late life depression have guided the development of hypotheses on mechanisms predisposing, initiating, and perpetuating specific mood syndromes. Comorbidity studies have demonstrated a relationship between frontostriatal impairment and late life depression. Further research has the potential to identify dysfunctions of specific frontostriatal systems critical for antidepressant response and to lead to novel pharmacological treatments and targeted psychosocial interventions. The reciprocal interactions of depression with disability, medical illnesses, treatment adherence, and other psychosocial factors complicate the care of depressed older adults. Growing knowledge of the clinical complexity introduced by the comorbidity of late life depression can guide the development of comprehensive treatment models. Targeting the interacting clinical characteristics associated with poor outcomes has the potential to interrupt the spiral of deterioration of depressed elderly patients. Treatment models can be most effective if they focus on amelioration of depressive symptoms, but also on treatment adherence, prevention of relapse and recurrence, reduction of medical burden and disability, and improvement of the quality of life of patients and their families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
  • Nursing Homes
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Research / trends*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • United States