Persistent versus transient depressive symptoms in relation to platelet hyperactivation: a longitudinal analysis of dementia caregivers

J Affect Disord. 2009 Jul;116(1-2):80-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2008.11.008. Epub 2009 Jan 8.


Background: Depressive symptoms and caregiving stress may contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD) via chronic platelet activation; however, it remains unclear whether this elevated activation constitutes a trait or state marker. The primary objective was to investigate whether persistent depressive symptoms would relate to elevated platelet activation in response to acute psychological stress over a three-year period.

Methods: Depressive symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory) were assessed among 99 spousal dementia caregivers (52-88 years). Platelet P-selectin expression was assessed in vivo using flow cytometry at three time-points over the course of an acute stress test: baseline, post-stress, and after 14 min of recovery. Two competing structural analytic models of depressive symptoms and platelet hyperactivity with three yearly assessments were compared.

Results: Although depressive symptoms were generally in the subclinical range, their persistent elevation was associated with heightened platelet reactivity and recovery at all three-years while the change in depressive symptoms from the previous year did not predict platelet activity.

Limitations: These results focus on caregivers providing consistent home care, while future studies may extend these results by modeling major caregiving stressors.

Conclusions: Enduring aspects of negative affect, even among those not suffering from clinical depression are related to hemostatic changes, in this case platelet reactivity, which might be one mechanism for previously reported increase in CVD risk among elderly Alzheimer caregivers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Structural
  • P-Selectin / metabolism*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Platelet Activation
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors


  • P-Selectin