The impact of depressive symptomatology on physical disability: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging

Am J Public Health. 1994 Nov;84(11):1796-9. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.11.1796.


Objectives: The purpose of these analyses was to test the hypothesis that depressive symptomatology affects the risk of onset of physical disability in high-functioning elderly adults.

Methods: The data come from the MacArthur Study of Successful Aging, a community-based cohort of high-functioning adults aged 70 through 79 years who were assessed twice at a 2.5-year interval. Physical and cognitive status was assessed by performance as well as by self-report measures.

Results: In gender-stratified logistic regression models, high depressive symptoms as measured by the depression subscale of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist were associated with an increased risk of onset of disability in activities of daily living for both men and women, adjusting for baseline sociodemographic factors, physical health status, and cognitive functioning.

Conclusions: Joined with evidence that physical disability is a potential risk factor for depression, these findings suggest that both depressive symptoms and physical disability can initiate a spiralling decline in physical and psychological health. Given the important impact of activities-of-daily-living functioning on utilization of medical services and quality of life, prevention or reduction of depressive symptoms should be considered an important point of intervention.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cognition
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Depression / complications*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors