Incidence of depression and anxiety in the spouses of patients with dementia: a naturalistic cohort study of recorded morbidity with a 6-year follow-up

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2010 Feb;18(2):146-53. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181bf9f0f.


Objective: Living with a demented person has been associated with high levels of clinical depression and anxiety. However, there are no prospective studies that allow good estimates of the incidence of depression and anxiety. In this study, the authors assess the long-term incidence of depression and anxiety in the spouses of patients with dementia as recorded by general practitioners.

Design: Prospective naturalistic cohort study with a comparison group. Data from medical records in 2001-2007 were analyzed.

Participants: Two hundred eighteen spouses of patients with dementia and 353 age and gender-matched spouses of nondemented persons.

Setting: Seventy-one general practices in the Netherlands with a listed source population of 320,309 patients.

Measurements: Incidence rates (IRs) per 1,000 person-years and hazard ratios (HRs) of depression and anxiety; prescription rates (per 1,000 person-years) for antidepressants and anxiolytics.

Results: A new episode of depression was diagnosed in 18 spouses and 7 comparison spouses (IRs of 18.8/1,000 person-years and 4.4/1,000 person-years, respectively). Spouses of patients with dementia were far more likely to be diagnosed with depression than the comparison spouses (HR, 4.16; 95% CI: 1.73-9.98). Spouses did not have a higher incidence of anxiety than the comparison group (HR, 1.26; 95% CI: 0.58-2.71). The prescription rates for both antidepressants and anxiolytics were significantly higher for spouses than for the comparison group.

Conclusion: The spouses of patients with dementia have a fourfold higher risk of a diagnosis of depression than the spouses of nondemented persons. The authors could not establish this for anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents