Depressive Symptoms and Longitudinal Changes in Cognition: Women's Health Initiative Study of Cognitive Aging

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2014 Jun;27(2):94-102. doi: 10.1177/0891988714522697. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


Elevated depressive symptoms (DS) are associated with incident mild cognitive impairment and probable dementia in postmenopausal women. We examined the association of elevated DS with domain-specific cognitive changes and the moderating role of cardiovascular risk factor severity and cardiovascular disease (CVD). A total of 2221 elderly women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Study of Cognitive Aging were separated into those with (N = 204) and without (N = 2017) elevated DS. The DS and multidomain cognitive outcomes were measured annually for an average follow-up of 5.04 years. Women with elevated DS showed baseline multidomain cognitive deficits but longitudinal declines in global cognition only. Persistent DS was related to greater global cognition, verbal knowledge and fluency, and memory declines. Significant DS-CVD interactions were observed cross-sectionally (but not longitudinally) for figural memory and fine motor speed. Future studies should investigate the role of nonvascular mechanisms linking DS and cognitive decline.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; cognitive decline; dementia; depression; depressive symptoms; vascular risk factors; women.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Aging / physiology*
  • Cognitive Aging / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Postmenopause
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Women's Health