Causal associations between depression symptoms and cognition in a community-based cohort of older adults

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;22(12):1583-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2014.01.004. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Objective: To evaluate the temporal association between depression symptoms and cognitive function in older adults over a 4-year period.

Methods: Using a longitudinal, cross-lagged, population-based design, we studied depression symptoms and cognitive domains (including processing speed, verbal fluency, face and word recognition, episodic memory, and simple and choice reaction time) in 896 community-dwelling adults aged 70-97 years.

Results: Cross-lagged structural equation models suggested that initial depression symptoms affected subsequent processing speed and simple and choice reaction time but that cognition did not predict depression symptoms over time. The associations between depression and cognitive variables were attenuated when the models were adjusted for sensory impairment, physical health, and locus of control.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that, causally, depression precedes cognitive impairment in this age group and that the association is related to physical health and perceptions of a lack of control.

Keywords: Depression; cognition; old age; physical health; reaction time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Sensation Disorders / epidemiology