Depression is the most common mental health problem in aging persons and is a leading risk factor for physical disability, especially in women. Though antidepressant drugs such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are commonly prescribed, epidemiological evidence reveals mixed effects of long-term antidepressant use on physical function and activity, possibly depending on depressive status. The purpose of this preclinical trial was to determine the relationships of depressive behavior and the potential for an SSRI treatment to modulate walking speed and activity patterns in older adult female cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). We evaluated the effects of depression and a commonly prescribed SSRI, sertraline HCl (20 mg/kg/day p.o.), on (a) walking speed, (b) accelerometry-derived activity (counts) and sedentariness (daytime 60-s sedentary epochs), and (c) observed locomotor and sedentary behaviors (% time) in adult female depressed and nondepressed monkeys (n = 42; 17.2 ± 1.8 years) during an 18 month pre-treatment phase and an 18 month treatment phase using a longitudinal, stratified placebo-control study design. Monkeys that were depressed prior to treatment (19/42) subsequently had slower walking speeds (F D [1, 38] = 4.14; p ≤ 0.05) and tended to be more sedentary during the daytime (F D [1, 38] = 3.63; p ≤ 0.06). Sertraline did not affect depressive behaviors, walking speed, accelerometry-derived physical activity or sedentariness, or time observed in total locomotor or sedentary behavior (all p > 0.10). This study provides the first experimental demonstration of relationships between nonhuman primate behavioral depression and walking speed, activity, and sedentariness and provides evidence for a lack of an effect of SSRI treatment on these phenotypes.
Keywords: Depression; Nonhuman primates; Physical function; SSRI; Sedentary; Walking speed.