Objectives: To test whether baseline depressive symptoms in older adults increase the risk of subsequent decline in self-rated health and decrease the likelihood of subsequent improvement in self-rated health.
Design: A 2-year prospective cohort study.
Setting: Six thousand seven hundred fourteen community-dwelling older persons who completed the first and second wave of the Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest-Old Survey in the United States.
Participants: Community-dwelling older people in the United States.
Measurements: Baseline depressive symptoms were measured using a short-form of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Self-rated health was measured using a single item of global health rating.
Results: After adjustment for covariates, a high burden of depressive symptoms at baseline was predictive of greater decline in self-rated health (odds ratio (OR) for decline in those with high burden of depressive symptoms vs those without = 1.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.26-1.70). Likewise, high burden of depressive symptoms at baseline predicted less improvement in self-rated health (OR for improvement in those with high burden of depressive symptoms vs those without = 0.57, 95% CI = 0.50-0.65).
Conclusions: Depressive symptomatology is an independent risk factor for subsequent changes in self-rated health in older adults. Thus, early prevention and intervention of depressive symptoms in community-dwelling older adults might be critical to promote and maintain their self-rated health.