Background: Although depression and loneliness are common among older adults, the role of loneliness on the prognosis of late-life depression has not yet been determined. Therefore, we examined the association between loneliness and the course of depression.
Methods: We conducted a 2-year follow-up study of a cohort from the Netherlands Study of Depression in Older Persons (NESDO). This included Dutch adults aged 60-90 years with a diagnosis of major depression, dysthymia, or minor depression according to the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. We performed regression analyses to determine associations between loneliness at baseline and both severity and remission of depression at follow-up. We controlled for potential confounders and performed multiple imputations to account for missing data.
Results: Of the 285 respondents, 48% were still depressed after 2 years. Loneliness was independently associated with more severe depressive symptoms at follow-up (beta 0.61; 95% CI 0.12-1.11). Very severe loneliness was negatively associated with remission after 2 years compared with no loneliness (OR 0.25; 95% CI 0.08-0.80).
Limitations: Despite using multiple imputation, the large proportion of missing values probably reduces the study's precision. Generalizability to the general population may be limited by the overrepresentation of ambulatory patients with possibly more persistent forms of depression.
Conclusion: In this cohort, the prognosis of late-life depression was adversely affected by loneliness. Health care providers should seek to evaluate the degree of loneliness to obtain a more reliable assessment of the prognosis of late-life depression.
Keywords: Depression; Loneliness; Older age/aged; Prognosis; Social relations.
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