Background: Cerebral white matter hyperintensities on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have been associated with vascular disease and late-life depression, both in the general population and in psychiatric patients. Therefore, a cerebrovascular etiology for late-onset depression has been hypothesized. However, longitudinal studies on the causal role of white matter hyperintensities in the development of depressive symptoms in elderly adults are lacking.
Objective: To investigate the relation between white matter hyperintensities and depressive symptoms in elderly subjects at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Methods: In the Dutch sample of the PROSPER (PROspective Study of Pravastatine in the Elderly at Risk of cardiovascular disease) cohort, 527 non-demented elderly, all aged 70 years or older, received a cranial MRI scan and the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale, at baseline and 33 months (SD 1.6) later.
Results: Presence of white matter hyperintensities at baseline was not related to baseline depressive symptoms nor to the development of depressive symptoms during follow-up. Moreover, no association was found between progression of white matter lesion volume and progression of depressive symptoms.
Conclusion: This longitudinal study does not confirm the involvement of cerebrovascular disease expressed as MRI white matter hyperintensities in the development of depressive symptoms in elderly subjects.
Copyright (c) 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.