The course of depression in late life: a longitudinal perspective

Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2020 Jul 29;29:e147. doi: 10.1017/S204579602000058X.


Depression in old age deserves special attention in view of the fact of progressive population ageing, because of the way in which depression and risk factors interact in this period of life and the particularly negative impact of late-life depression on health and quality of life. This editorial aims to provide some insight into longitudinal aspects of depression in old age. Depression may follow varying trajectories (e.g. episode emergence, recurrence) across the lifespan. Late-life depression is not an exception. A symptom-based approach is presented as an appropriate research method to study the predictors and course of affective syndromes in old age. Findings from our studies on depressive symptom trajectories in old age revealed that participants with a course of unremitting elevated symptoms showed the highest levels of loneliness across the trajectory groups and that participants with subclinical symptoms also showed higher levels of loneliness than their counterparts with a minimal-symptom course trajectory. This highlights the need to address loneliness as a way of dealing with depression in old age.

Keywords: Depression trajectories; late-life depression; loneliness; persistent depression; symptom approach.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors