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Stability and change in level of probable depression and depressive symptoms in a sample of middle and older-aged adults

  • Richard A. Burns (a1), Peter Butterworth (a1), Mary Luszcz (a2) and Kaarin J. Anstey (a1)

Background: Findings from studies investigating depression in adults in late life are mixed due to a lack of large longitudinal studies with the power necessary to yield reliable estimates of stability or change. We examined the long-term stability of probable depression and depressive symptomology over a 13-year period in the Dynamic Analyses to Optimize Ageing (DYNOPTA) project.

Methods: Community-living participants (N = 35,200) were aged 45–103 at baseline, predominantly female (79%), partnered (73%), and educated to secondary school only (61%) and followed for up to 13 years.

Results: At baseline, increased age was associated with lower prevalence of probable depression and depressive symptomology. Over time, prevalence of probable depression was stable while levels of depressive symptomology reported a small decline. However, this finding was not consistent for all age groups; there was evidence for increasing levels of depressive symptomology, but not probable depression, as individuals aged. This effect was particularly notable among males aged 70 plus years.

Conclusions: These results answer important questions relating to the longitudinal prevalence of probable depression and depressive symptomology in a sample of older Australians. These findings have policy implications for mental health service provision for older adults.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Richard A. Burns, Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Well-Being, Building 63, Eggleston Road, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. Phone: + 61 2 6125 3132; Fax: + 61 2 6125 0733. Email:
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics
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