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Age and risk for depression among the elderly: a meta-analysis of the published literature

  • Ke-Xiang Zhao (a1), Chang-Quan Huang (a2), Qian Xiao (a1), Yuan Gao (a1), Qing-Xiu Liu (a2), Zheng-Rong Wang (a3), Yong-Hong Li (a3) and Yi-Zhou Xie (a3)...



The goal of this study was to determine the relationship between age and risk for depression among the old and the oldest old.


MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library database were used to identify potential studies. The studies were divided into cross-sectional and longitudinal subsets. For each study, the numbers of the total participants, cases (for cross-sectional study), or incident cases (for longitudinal study) of depression in each age group were extracted and entered into Review Manager 4.2 software. Qualitative meta-analyses of cross-sectional studies and of longitudinal studies were performed. For prevalence and incidence rates of depression, odds risk (OR) and relative risk (RR) were calculated, respectively.


The qualitative meta-analyses showed that, compared with younger participants (above vs. below 65 years, above vs. below 70 years, above vs. below 75 years, and above vs. below 80 years), older age groups had a significantly higher risk for depression. (All of the ORs and RRs were significant.) Compared with participants aged 55–89, those aged above 90 years had no higher risk for depression. (Neither the OR nor the RR was significant.)


Despite the methodological limitations of this meta-analysis, older age appears to be an important risk factor for depression in the general elderly population (aged below 80 years), but not in the oldest population (aged above 85 years).


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Qian Xiao, Department of Geriatrics, the First Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing 400016, China. (Email


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This work was supported by funding from National Foundation of Natural Science of China (No.81170752), the government of Sichuan province of china (2010FZ0061), health department in the government of Sichuan province, the government of MianYang City (09s001), and the Third Hospital of Mianyang. The authors thank the staff of Key Laboratory of Chronobiology of Health Ministry in Basic and Forensic School of Sichuan University, the Department of Geriatrics of the Third Hospital of Mianyang, and all participants (as well as their legal proxies) for their great contributions. Mr. Rebbo is also acknowledged for his language assistance.

Ke-Xiang Zhao and Chang-Quan Huang were equal contributors to this article.



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