Older men suffering from depression are at higher risk of hospitalisation for non-psychiatric conditions, says Winthrop Professor Osvaldo Almeida from the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing
Strategies that identify and manage older people with depression are needed to prevent hospital admissions and reduce health care costs, says a leading geriatric psychiatry researcher.
The call follows findings in a study by the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing (WACHA) that depressed older men are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital as their counterparts not suffering depression.
Older men suffering from depression were at higher risk of hospitalisation for non-psychiatric conditions, said Winthrop Professor Osvaldo Almeida, senior investigator on the study and director of research at WACHA.
“Our results indicate that we must tackle the issue of depression in later life if we are serious about optimising the use of limited hospital resources available to the Australian population,” said Prof Almeida, who is chair of geriatric psychiatry at the University of Western Australia.
The research, which was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal yesterday, looked at 5411 Perth men aged 69 years and older.
According to an assessment of depressive symptoms using the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale, 6.3 per cent of participants had moderate to severe depression.
The study found the men with depression were likely to have worse hospital outcomes and hospital stays up to twice as long as non-depressed men.
And nearly half of the depressed men had at least one emergency admission compared to 23 per cent of non-depressed men.
Overnight admissions and deaths in hospital were also higher in the cohort of depressed participants.
“Possible reasons for the higher admission rates in this depressed group include decreased compliance with treatment plans for other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, and physiological changes associated with depression that complicate the course of other medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease,” Professor Almeida said.
“Although the idea that there is a relationship between depression and medical admission is not new, no previous studies had shown this link in a community, rather than a clinical, sample of older people.”
The research is part of the Health In Men Study (HIMS), which has been following a group of men living in Perth since 1996.
Depression affects between four and 14 per cent of the population at any point in time and is the leading cause of disability and health-related costs in Australia, according to WACHA.