Background: Depression in old age is common. Only few studies, exclusively conducted in the USA, have examined the impact of depression on direct costs in the elderly (60+). This study aims to determine the effect of depression on direct costs of the advanced elderly in Germany from a societal perspective.
Methods: 451 primary care patients aged 75+ were investigated face-to-face regarding depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale), chronic medical illness (Chronic Disease Score) and resource utilisation and costs (cost diary). Resource utilisation was monetarily valued using 2004/2005 prices.
Results: Mean annual direct costs of the depressed (euro5241) exceeded mean costs of non-depressed individuals (euro3648) by one third (p<.01). Significant differences were found for pharmaceutical costs, costs for medical supply and dentures, and for home care. Only few costs were caused by depression treatment. Depression has a significant impact on direct costs after controlling for age, gender, education, chronic medical illness and cognitive functions. A one-point increase in the GDS-Score was associated with a euro336 increase in the annual direct costs.
Limitations: Reported costs can be considered as rather conservative estimates. There were no nursing home residents and no patients with dementia disorders in the sample. Furthermore, recall bias cannot be ruled out completely.
Conclusion: Depression in old age is associated with a significant increase of direct costs, even after adjustment for chronic medical illness. Future demographic changes in Germany will lead to an increase in the burden of old age depression. Therefore health policy should promote the development and use of cost-effective treatment strategies.