Temporal course of depressive symptoms during the development of Alzheimer disease

Neurology. 2010 Jul 6;75(1):21-6. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181e620c5.


Objective: To characterize change in depressive symptoms before and after the onset of dementia in Alzheimer disease (AD).

Method: We used data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a longitudinal cohort study of risk factors for AD in a geographically defined population of old people. Two subsets were analyzed. In 357 individuals who developed incident AD during the study, self-report of depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale) was obtained at 3-year intervals for a mean of 8 to 9 years. In 340 individuals who agreed to annual data collection, informant report of depressive symptoms (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) was obtained for a mean of 3 years after a diagnosis of AD (n = 107), mild cognitive impairment (n = 81), or no cognitive impairment (n = 152).

Results: The incident AD group reported a barely perceptible increase in depressive symptoms during 6 to 7 years of observation before the diagnosis (0.04 symptoms per year) and no change during 2 to 3 years of observation after the diagnosis except for a slight decrease in positive affect. In those with annual follow-up, neither AD nor its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, was associated with change in informant report of depressive symptoms during a mean of 3 years of observation.

Conclusion: Depressive symptoms show little change during the development and progression of AD to a moderate level of dementia severity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / psychology
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / pathology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological / methods
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Time Factors