Background: In later life, declining physical health is often thought to be one of the most important risk factors for depression. Major depressive disorders are relatively rare, while depressive syndromes which do not fulfill diagnostic criteria (minor depression) are common.
Methods: Community-based sample of older adults (55-85) in the Netherlands: baseline sample n = 3056; study sample in two stage screening procedure n = 646. Both relative (odds ratios) and absolute (population attributable risks) measures of associations reported.
Results: In multivariate analyses minor depression was related to physical health, while major depression was not. General aspects of physical health had stronger associations with depression than specific disease categories. Significant interactions between ill health and social support were found only for minor depression. Major depression was associated with variables reflecting long-standing vulnerability.
Conclusion: Major and minor depression differ in their association with physical health.
Limitation: Cross-sectional study relying largely on self-reported data.
Clinical relevance: In major depression, with or without somatic co-morbidity, primary treatment of the affective disorder should not be delayed. In minor depression associated with declining physical health, intervention may be aimed at either or both conditions.