Depressive symptoms are associated with allostatic load among community-dwelling older adults

Physiol Behav. 2014 Jan 17;123:223-30. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.10.014.


The allostatic load model has been used to quantify the physiological costs of the body's response to repeated stressful demands and may provide a useful, integrative perspective on the various correlates of late-life depressive symptoms. We interviewed 125 Rochester, NY adults, ranging in age from 67 to 94 years. We employed an allostatic load score as a measure of multisystem dysfunction in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis function, immune function, anabolic activity, and cardiovascular activity. Overall, affective, and somatic depressive symptom scores were computed using the 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Multiple linear regression models were used to estimate associations between allostatic load scores and affective, somatic, and overall depressive symptoms. Among our sample of mean age 76.1 years, the one-week prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms was 12.8%. In models adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and health-related factors, higher allostatic load scores were associated with elevated scores for overall, affective, and somatic depressive symptoms: beta = 1.21 (95% CI = 0.38, 2.05); beta = 0.14 (95% CI = 0.040, 0.24); beta = 0.60 (95% CI = 0.23, 0.97), respectively. Our results suggest that allostatic load measure is associated with late-life depressive symptoms. This association appears to be of clinical significance, as the magnitude of the effect size was comparable (but opposite in direction) to that of antidepressant use. Future research should examine the inter-relationships of allostatic load, psychological stress, and late-life depressive symptoms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Allostasis / physiology*
  • Association*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Residence Characteristics


  • Cytokines
  • Hydrocortisone