Background. We pursue an observation that age may influence the clinical features of melancholia and, in particular, psychomotor disturbance.
Methods. Two large clinical databases were amalgamated allowing the clinical features of 124 depressed subjects meeting DSM-III-R and clinical criteria for melancholia to be contrasted with 218 subjects diagnosed as having a non-melancholic depression by both criteria sets. Psychomotor disturbance was assessed by the CORE measure and by seven classical endogeneity symptoms of melancholia which, when summed, created a ENDOG score.
Results. There was no impact of age on ENDOG scores in either the melancholics or non-melancholics. In the melancholics, increasing age was associated with increasing CORE scores and with agitation scale scores in particular. In a set of discriminant function analyses seeking to identify the comparative utility of a set of predictors of melancholic (versus non-melancholic) groups, age was significant, and while CORE and ENDOG scores were individual predictors, their combined entry established that the CORE score alone made the ENDOG score redundant, and that the addition of age then made little impact.
Conclusions. Melancholia appears to have a later age of onset than non-melancholic depression, while its phenotypic expression appears to change with age, with psychomotor disturbance being more distinct in older subjects. Such an effect may have a number of clinical implications, including possible differential effects of varying antidepressant treatments.