Background: Mounting evidence suggests a link between low zinc levels and depression. There is, however, little knowledge about zinc levels in older persons with other psychiatric diagnoses. Therefore, we explore the zinc status of elderly patients suffering from a wide range of psychiatric disorders.
Methods: Clinical data and blood samples for zinc analyzes were collected from 100 psychogeriatric patients over 64 of age. Psychiatric and cognitive symptoms were assessed using the Montgomery and Aasberg Depression Rating Scale, the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia, the Mini-Mental State Examination, the Clockdrawing Test, clinical interviews and a review of medical records. In addition, a diagnostic interview was conducted using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview instrument. The prevalence of zinc deficiency in patients with depression was compared with the prevalence in patients without depression, and the prevalence in a control group of 882 older persons sampled from a population study.
Results: There was a significant difference in zinc deficiency prevalence between the control group (14.4%) and the patient group (41.0%) (χ(2) = 44.81, df = 1, p<0.001). In a logistic model with relevant predictors, zinc deficiency was positively associated with gender and with serum albumin level. The prevalence of zinc deficiency in the patient group was significantly higher in patients without depression (i.e. with other diagnoses) than in patients with depression as a main diagnosis or comorbid depression (χ(2) = 4.36, df = 1, p = 0.037).
Conclusions: Zinc deficiency is quite common among psychogeriatric patients and appears to be even more prominent in patients suffering from other psychiatric disorders than depression.
Limitations: This study does not provide a clear answer as to whether the observed differences represent a causal relationship between zinc deficiency and psychiatric symptoms. The blood sample collection time points varied in both the control group and the patient group. No data regarding zinc supplementation were collected.