Allostatic load associations to acute, 3-year and 6-year prospective depressive symptoms in healthy older adults

Physiol Behav. 2011 Aug 3;104(2):360-4. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.02.027. Epub 2011 Feb 23.


Allostatic load represents the strain that chronic stress exerts on interconnected biological systems. Associated algorithms are related to numerous deleterious physical outcomes in older populations, and yet few studies have assessed associations to mental health outcomes like geriatric depression. Using data from the Douglas Hospital Longitudinal Study of Normal and Pathological Aging, we assessed whether using an allostatic load index derived from seven biomarkers could detect self-rated depressive symptoms in 58 healthy older adults followed longitudinally over a 6-year period. Our results revealed that increased allostatic load was associated with increased depressive symptoms on the same year of assessment. After 3 years, AL was prospectively associated with depressive symptoms, but entering age and sex as covariates attenuated this effect to a trend. Only age emerged as a significant predictor of depressive symptoms over 6 years. These findings suggest that increased AL in older age is only associated with depressive symptomatology acutely. Over longer periods of time, however, the physical and psychological sequelae of advanced age may contribute to increased depressive symptoms via pathways otherwise undetectable using allostatic load indices of sub-clinical physiological dysregulations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Allostasis / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors