Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 May 2010
Background: Dementia and depression are common in advanced age, and often co-exist. There are indications of a decreased prevalence of depressive symptoms among old people in recent years, supposedly because of the manifold increase in antidepressant treatment. Whether the prevalence of depressive symptoms has decreased among people in different stages of dementia disorders has not yet been investigated.
Methods: A comparison was undertaken of two cross-sectional studies, conducted in 1982 and 2000, comprising 6864 participants living in geriatric care units in the county of Västerbotten, Sweden. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Multi-Dimensional Dementia Assessment Scale (MDDAS), and the cognitive score was measured with Gottfries’ cognitive scale. Drug data were obtained from prescription records.
Results: There was a significant decrease in depressive symptom score between 1982 and 2000 in all cognitive function groups except for the group with moderate cognitive impairment. Antidepressant drug use increased in all cognitive function groups.
Conclusion: The prevalence of depressive symptoms decreased between 1982 and 2000, in all levels of cognitive impairment except moderate cognitive impairment. This might possibly be explained by the depressive symptoms having different etiologies in different stages of a dementia disorder, which in turn might not be equally susceptible to antidepressant treatment.