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Interventions including physical exercise may help improve the outcomes of late-life major depression, but few studies are available.
To investigate whether augmenting sertraline therapy with physical exercise leads to better outcomes of late-life major depression.
Primary care patients (>65 years) with major depression were randomised to 24 weeks of higher-intensity, progressive aerobic exercise plus sertraline (S+PAE), lower-intensity, non-progressive exercise plus sertraline (S+NPE) and sertraline alone. The primary outcome was remission (a score of $10 on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression).
A total of 121 patients were included. At study end, 45% of participants in the sertraline group, 73% of those in the S+NPE group and 81% of those in the S+PAE group achieved remission (P = 0.001). A shorter time to remission was observed in the S+PAE group than in the sertraline-only group.
Physical exercise may be a safe and effective augmentation to antidepressant therapy in late-life major depression.
Executive processes consist of at least two sets of functions: one concerned with cognitive control and the other with reward-related decision making. Abnormal performance in both sets occurs in late-life depression. This study tested the hypothesis that only abnormal performance in cognitive control tasks predicts poor outcomes of late-life depression treated with escitalopram.
We studied older subjects with major depression (N = 53) and non-depressed subjects (N = 30). Executive functions were tested with the Iowa Gambling Test (IGT), Stroop Color-Word Test, Tower of London (ToL), and Dementia Rating Scale – Initiation/Perseveration domain (DRS-IP). After a 2-week placebo washout, depressed subjects received escitalopram (target daily dose: 20 mg) for 12 weeks.
There were no significant differences between depressed and non-depressed subjects on executive function tests. Hierarchical cluster analysis of depressed subjects identified a Cognitive Control cluster (abnormal Stroop, ToL, DRS-IP), a Reward-Related cluster (IGT), and an Executively Unimpaired cluster. Decline in depression was greater in the Executively Unimpaired (t = −2.09, df = 331, p = 0.0375) and the Reward-Related (t = −2.33, df = 331, p = 0.0202) clusters than the Cognitive Control cluster. The Executively Unimpaired cluster (t = 2.17, df = 331, p = 0.03) and the Reward-Related cluster (t = 2.03, df = 331, p = 0.0433) had a higher probability of remission than the Cognitive Control cluster.
Dysfunction of cognitive control functions, but not reward-related decision making, may influence the decline of symptoms and the probability of remission of late-life depression treated with escitalopram. If replicated, simple to administer cognitive control tests may be used to select depressed older patients at risk for poor outcomes to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors who may require structured psychotherapy.
Attainment of remission is viewed as the optimal outcome of acute antidepressant treatment. However, some patients experience subsyndromal symptoms after they achieve remission. This study examines the prognostic significance of subsyndromal symptoms occurring during the first 6 months after remission of late-life depression.
Older (age 60–89 years) in-patients and out-patients with unipolar major depression were followed until remission (asymptomatic or almost asymptomatic for 3 consecutive weeks). Two hundred and forty-two achieved remission after uncontrolled antidepressant treatment. This analysis focused on remitted patients who had follow-up data over a 2.5-year period (n = 185).
Approximately 18% of patients relapsed. Of the remainder (n = 152), 42.8% had subsyndromal depressive symptoms during the 6 months following remission. Cox's proportional survival analysis demonstrated that longer duration of subsyndromal symptoms [number of weeks with the Longitudinal Follow-up Examination (LIFE) Psychiatric Status Rating Scale (PSR) score of 3 or 4] in the first 6 months after remission was significantly associated with shorter time to recurrence and higher recurrence rate [hazard ratio (HR) 1.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08–1.24]. Based on our analysis, patients with 0, 4, 8 and 12 weeks of subsyndromal symptoms in the first 6 months after remission have estimated recurrence rates of 28, 45, 66 and 86% respectively during the ensuing 2 years.
These findings highlight the clinical importance of subsyndromal symptoms occurring after remission in late-life depression. They also argue that studies of geriatric depression may complement the definition of remission with information on subsyndromal symptoms occurring after the initial asymptomatic period.
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