Chronic conditions and depressive symptoms in older adults: the mediating role of functional limitations

Aging Ment Health. 2021 Feb;25(2):243-249. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2019.1693971. Epub 2019 Nov 25.

Abstract

Background: Depressive symptoms, chronic conditions, and functional limitations are common in older adults. Several studies have examined the relationship between chronic conditions or functional limitations and depressive symptoms separately. However, little is known about how much of the effect of chronic conditions on depressive symptoms is due to the functional limitations resulting from such conditions.

Methods: This paper examined the longitudinal association of chronic conditions and functional limitations with depressive symptoms in older adults aged 65 and over in the USA using the data from the 2012 wave and 2014 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Mediation analysis was used to examine the mediation effects of 2012 functional limitations on the relationship between 2012 chronic conditions and 2014 depressive symptoms controlling for other measures including gender, age, race, education, marital status, and BMI.

Results: Results revealed that chronic conditions and functional limitations were significantly associated with depressive symptoms. There was a 13.7% mediation effect when 2012 functional limitations were added as a mediator on the relationship between 2012 chronic conditions and 2014 depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: Functional limitations mediate the relationship between chronic conditions and depressive symptoms. Preventing or managing functional limitations may help reduce depressive symptoms in older adults with chronic conditions.

Keywords: mediation; Depressive symptoms; chronic conditions; depression; disability; functional limitations.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Retirement*