In previous studies cognitive impairment in depressed elderly in-patients tends to be associated with a late onset of depression. This study tests the hypothesis that cognitive impairment is associated with depression only in elderly individuals with no history of psychiatric illness.
We investigated an age-stratified sample of 4051 elderly people living in the community, aged between 65 and 84 (AMSTEL). The relationship between depression (GMS-AGECAT diagnosis) and scores on the Mini Mental State Examination was studied in subjects with and without a reported psychiatric history (CAMDEX questionnaire).
Low MMSE scores (MMSE ≤ 25) were only associated with depression in subjects with no psychiatric history (young/old: OR = 2.75, 95% CI = 1.83, 4.19; old/old: OR = 2.21, 95% CI = 1.61, 3.03).
We concluded that the combination of cognitive impairment and first-episode depression in elderly individuals may indicate cerebral deterioration. Depression as such may not be associated with cognitive impairment.