Growing evidence suggests that there may be a subtype of depression arising in later life that is characterised by a distinct clinical presentation and an association with cerebrovascular disease. This has been termed ‘vascular depression’.
To review the evidence for associations between cardiovascular disease and depression and between cerebrovascular disease and depression, and to examine implications for clinical practice and research.
The authors reviewed the medical literature covering the past 5 years.
There is strong evidence for an association between cardiovascular disease and depression, but this is not confined to older people. The causal pathway may be bi-directional. There is also a convergence of evidence suggesting a causal link between cerebrovascular disease and depression, especially that occurring later in life. The major focus has been on neuroradiological findings thought to be due to vascular disease, although the pathology may be heterogeneous.
Although there are gaps in the evidence there is strong support for the concept of vascular depression, characterised by reduced depression ideation, subcortical neurological dysfunction, apathy and psychomotor change. This has implications for both treatment and prevention.