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Self-reported activity restriction is an established correlate of depression in dementia caregivers (dCGs). It is plausible that the daily distribution of objectively measured activity is also altered in dCGs with depression symptoms; if so, such activity characteristics could provide a passively measurable marker of depression or specific times to target preventive interventions. We therefore investigated how levels of activity throughout the day differed in dCGs with and without depression symptoms, then tested whether any such differences predicted changes in symptoms 6 months later.
Design, setting, participants, and measurements:
We examined 56 dCGs (mean age = 71, standard deviation (SD) = 6.7; 68% female) and used clustering to identify subgroups which had distinct depression symptom levels, leveraging baseline Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale–Revised Edition and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) measures, as well as a PHQ-9 score from 6 months later. Using wrist activity (mean recording length = 12.9 days, minimum = 6 days), we calculated average hourly activity levels and then assessed when activity levels relate to depression symptoms and changes in symptoms 6 months later.
Clustering identified subgroups characterized by: (1) no/minimal symptoms (36%) and (2) depression symptoms (64%). After multiple comparison correction, the group of dCGs with depression symptoms was less active from 8 to 10 AM (Cohen’s d ≤ −0.9). These morning activity levels predicted the degree of symptom change on the PHQ-9 6 months later (per SD unit β = −0.8, 95% confidence interval: −1.6, −0.1, p = 0.03) independent of self-reported activity restriction and other key factors.
These novel findings suggest that morning activity may protect dCGs from depression symptoms. Future studies should test whether helping dCGs get active in the morning influences the other features of depression in this population (i.e. insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and perceived activity restriction).
The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) are the most frequently used observer-rated and self-report scales of depression, respectively. It is important to know what a given total score or a change score from baseline on one scale means in relation to the other scale.
We obtained individual participant data from the randomised controlled trials of psychological and pharmacological treatments for major depressive disorders. We then identified corresponding scores of the HAMD and the BDI (369 patients from seven trials) or the BDI-II (683 patients from another seven trials) using the equipercentile linking method.
The HAMD total scores of 10, 20 and 30 corresponded approximately with the BDI scores of 10, 27 and 42 or with the BDI-II scores of 13, 32 and 50. The HAMD change scores of −20 and −10 with the BDI of −29 and −15 and with the BDI-II of −35 and −16.
The results can help clinicians interpret the HAMD or BDI scores of their patients in a more versatile manner and also help clinicians and researchers evaluate such scores reported in the literature or the database, when scores on only one of these scales are provided. We present a conversion table for future research.
The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Aging defined “successful aging” as active engagement in life, maintenance of high cognitive and physical function, and avoidance of disease (Rowe and Kahn, 1987). Closely aligned with “successful aging” is resilience, that is, the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity.
Distinguishing a disorder of persistent and impairing grief from normative grief allows clinicians to identify this often undetected and disabling condition. As four diagnostic criteria sets for a grief disorder have been proposed, their similarities and differences need to be elucidated.
Participants were family members bereaved by US military service death (N = 1732). We conducted analyses to assess the accuracy of each criteria set in identifying threshold cases (participants who endorsed baseline Inventory of Complicated Grief ⩾30 and Work and Social Adjustment Scale ⩾20) and excluding those below this threshold. We also calculated agreement among criteria sets by varying numbers of required associated symptoms.
All four criteria sets accurately excluded participants below our identified clinical threshold (i.e. correctly excluding 86–96% of those subthreshold), but they varied in identification of threshold cases (i.e. correctly identifying 47–82%). When the number of associated symptoms was held constant, criteria sets performed similarly. Accurate case identification was optimized when one or two associated symptoms were required. When employing optimized symptom numbers, pairwise agreements among criteria became correspondingly ‘very good’ (κ = 0.86–0.96).
The four proposed criteria sets describe a similar condition of persistent and impairing grief, but differ primarily in criteria restrictiveness. Diagnostic guidance for prolonged grief disorder in International Classification of Diseases, 11th Edition (ICD-11) functions well, whereas the criteria put forth in Section III of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) are unnecessarily restrictive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Disease (ICD-11) is expected to include a new diagnosis for prolonged grief disorder (ICD-11PGD). This study examines the validity and clinical utility of the ICD-11PGD guideline by testing its performance in a well-characterized clinical sample and contrasting it with a very different criteria set with the same name (PGDPLOS).
We examined data from 261 treatment-seeking participants in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-sponsored multicenter clinical trial to determine the rates of diagnosis using the ICD-11PGD guideline and compared these with diagnosis using PGDPLOS criteria.
The ICD-11PGD guideline identified 95.8% [95% confidence interval (CI) 93.3–98.2%] of a treatment-responsive cohort of patients with distressing and impairing grief. PGDPLOS criteria identified only 59.0% (95% CI 53.0–65.0%) and were more likely to omit those who lost someone other than a spouse, were currently married, bereaved by violent means, or not diagnosed with co-occurring depression. Those not diagnosed by PGDPLOS criteria showed the same rate of treatment response as those who were diagnosed.
The ICD-11PGD diagnostic guideline showed good performance characteristics in this sample, while PGDPLOS criteria did not. Limitations of the research sample used to derive PGDPLOS criteria may partly explain their poor performance in a more diverse clinical sample. Clinicians and researchers need to be aware of the important difference between these two identically named diagnostic methods.
Insomnia increases in prevalence with age, is strongly associated with depression, and has been identified as a risk factor for suicide in several studies. The aim of this study was to determine whether insomnia severity varies between those who have attempted suicide (n = 72), those who only contemplate suicide (n = 28), and those who are depressed but have no suicidal ideation or attempt history (n = 35).
Participants were middle-aged and older adults (age 44–87, M = 66 years) with depression. Insomnia severity was measured as the sum of the early, middle, and late insomnia items from the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. General linear models examined relations between group status as the independent variable and insomnia severity as the dependent variable.
The suicide attempt group suffered from more severe insomnia than the suicidal ideation and non-suicidal depressed groups (p < 0.05). Differences remained after adjusting for potential confounders including demographics, cognitive ability, alcohol dependence in the past month, severity of depressed mood, anxiety, and physical health burden. Moreover, greater insomnia severity in the suicide attempt group could not be explained by interpersonal difficulties, executive functioning, benzodiazepine use, or by the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Our results suggest that insomnia may be more strongly associated with suicidal behavior than with the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. Accordingly, insomnia is a potential treatment target for reducing suicide risk in middle-aged and older adults.
Depression and anxiety disorders are very common in the elderly. Data accumulated over the past 2 decades have shown that most older patients can tolerate and respond to acute treatment with serotonergic antidepressants, other psychotropic agents, or manual-based psychotherapy. However, outcomes under usual-care conditions remain poor. This review proposes that clinicians may significantly improve the long-term outcomes of their older patients with depression and anxiety by focusing on four key factors: (1) identification and treatment of comorbid conditions; (2) full remission of acute symptoms; (3) education of patients, families, and professional colleagues about the need for long-term treatment; and (4) prevention and management of medication side-effects.
Although anxiety disorders are the most prevalent group of disorders in the United States, little is known about the efficacy of treatments for these disorders in elderly patients. Anxiety disorders, especially generalized anxiety disorder and phobias, are highly prevalent in older people. Anxiety symptoms and disorders are associated with increased mortality and disability in older people. Risk factors for anxiety disorders include chronic medical illness, disability, low education, low social network, and poor social support. The newer antidepressant medications, in particular the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and venlafaxine-extended relief, are recommended as first-line pharmacotherapy of these disorders in elderly. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended as first-line psychotherapy for these disorders. However, these recommendations are based on extrapolation of data from younger adults or retrospective analysis of datasets, the results need to be confirmed with controlled studies in an elderly age group.
Anxiety is common in the elderly and can present as a primary anxiety disorder or as a symptom of another disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder, in particular, is a common syndrome in late life. Anxiety symptoms are also common features of late-life depression and dementia. Treatment of anxiety in elderly persons has typically involved the use of benzodiazepines, which are often effective but problematic because they are associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment, falls, and fractures. Based on their safety and efficacy, antidepressants, particularly serotonergic medications, are considered first-line treatment for most anxiety disorders as well as anxiety symptoms of major depressive disorder. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy, may be effective in these disorders as well; research is underway to adapt this therapy to the needs of elderly persons. Anxiety symptoms in dementia are poorly understood but may respond to atypical antipsychotics, serotonergic antidepressants, or mood stabilizers. Overall, the research in late-life anxiety has not caught up to the literature in late-life depression and, for the most part, treatment recommendations must be extrapolated from studies in young adults.
There is controversy about whether psychotherapies are effective in the treatment of subclinical depression, defined by clinically relevant depressive symptoms in the absence of a major depressive disorder.
To examine whether psychotherapies are effective in reducing depressive symptoms, reduce the risk of developing major depressive disorder and have comparable effects to psychological treatment of major depression.
We conducted a meta-analysis of 18 studies comparing a psychological treatment of subclinical depression with a control group.
The target groups, therapies and characteristics of the included studies differed considerably from each other, and the quality of many studies was not optimal. Psychotherapies did have a small to moderate effect on depressive symptoms against care as usual at the post-test assessment (g = 0.35, 95% CI 0.23–0.47; NNT = 5, 95% CI 4–8) and significantly reduced the incidence of major depressive episodes at 6 months (RR = 0.61) and possibly at 12 months (RR = 0.74). The effects were significantly smaller than those of psychotherapy for major depressive disorder and could be accounted for by non-specific effects of treatment.
Psychotherapy may be effective in the treatment of subclinical depression and reduce the incidence of major depression, but more high-quality research is needed.
Surrogates involved in decisions to limit life-sustaining treatment for a loved one in the intensive care unit (ICU) are at increased risk for adverse psychological outcomes that can last for months to years after the ICU experience. Post-ICU interventions to reduce surrogate distress have not yet been developed. We sought to (1) describe a conceptual framework underlying the beneficial mental health effects of storytelling, and (2) present formative work developing a storytelling intervention to reduce distress for recently bereaved surrogates.
An interdisciplinary team conceived the idea for a storytelling intervention based on evidence from narrative theory that storytelling reduces distress from traumatic events through emotional disclosure, cognitive processing, and social connection. We developed an initial storytelling guide based on this theory and the clinical perspectives of team members. We then conducted a case series with recently bereaved surrogates to iteratively test and modify the guide.
The storytelling guide covered three key domains of the surrogate's experience of the patient's illness and death: antecedents, ICU experience, and aftermath. The facilitator focused on the parts of a story that appeared to generate strong emotions and used nonjudgmental statements to attend to these emotions. Between September 2012 and May 2013, we identified 28 eligible surrogates from a medical ICU and consented 20 for medical record review and recontact; 10 became eligible, of whom 6 consented and completed the storytelling intervention. The single-session storytelling intervention lasted from 40 to 92 minutes. All storytelling participants endorsed the intervention as acceptable, and five of six reported it as helpful.
Significance of Results:
Surrogate storytelling is an innovative and acceptable post-ICU intervention for recently bereaved surrogates and should be evaluated further.
Background: To compare the frequencies of risk factors, we describe risks for depression as a function of race among consecutively admitted participants in a randomized clinical trial of indicated depression prevention in later life.
Methods: Seventy-two black and 143 white participants were screened for risk factors for depression.
Results: Black participants were more likely to have fewer years of education and lower household income. They were more likely to be obese, live alone, experience functional disability, have a history of alcohol and drug abuse, and have lower scores on the Mini-mental State Examination and the Executive Interview (EXIT). White participants were not found to have greater prevalence or higher mean score on any risk factor. On average, black participants experienced approximately one more risk factor than white participants (t(213) = 3.32, p = 0.0011).
Conclusions: In our sample, black participants had higher frequencies of eight risk factors for depression and a greater mean number of risk factors compared to white participants.
Background: Social networks may protect depressed elders against suicidal behavior. However, conflict in important relationships may undermine the sense of social support, potentially negating the protective effects. Thus, we investigated the role of chronic interpersonal difficulties and perceived social support in depressed elders with and without suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Methods: 106 individuals aged 60 years and older participated in this cross-sectional, case-control study. They were placed in three groups: suicidal depressed, non-suicidal depressed and non-depressed. Following a detailed clinical characterization, we assessed perceived social support (Interpersonal Support Evaluation List), and chronic interpersonal difficulties (Inventory of Interpersonal Problems). Using general linear models, we explored the relationship between suicidal thoughts/attempts, social support, and chronic interpersonal difficulties. We also examined whether lower perceived social support explained the relationship between chronic interpersonal difficulties and suicidal thoughts/attempts.
Results: Suicidal depressed elders reported the lowest levels of perceived social support (belonging, tangible support, and self-esteem) and higher levels of chronic interpersonal difficulties (struggle against others and interpersonal hostility), compared to both non-suicidal depressed and non-depressed elders. The relationship between chronic interpersonal difficulties and suicidal behavior was partially explained by low perceived social support.
Conclusions: The experience of strong affects, interpersonal struggle, and hostility in relationships may undermine the sense of social support in depressed elders, possibly leading them to contemplate or attempt suicide. Depressed elders with a history of interpersonal difficulties need to be carefully monitored for suicidal behavior.
Nearly 2.5 million Americans currently reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the United States, accounting for approximately five percent of persons sixty-five and older. The aging of the “Baby Boomer” generation is expected to lead to an exponential growth in the need for some form of long-term care (LTC) for this segment of the population within the next twenty-five years. In light of these sobering demographic shifts, there is an urgency to address the profound concerns that exist about the quality-of-care (QoC) and quality-of-life (QoL) of this frailest segment of our population.
Major depression in the elderly is often a relapsing, chronic illness with high risk for chronic invalidism, poor treatment compliance, and suicide. In most cases, maintenance treatment to prevent recurrence and to enhance the quality of life is thought to be indicated. We review recent data from our onging studies that support both the efficacy and the safety of pharmacotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic maintenance treatments. However, the challenges of conducting maintenance therapy research (particularly with a placebo control) with the elderly are many, involving such areas as recruitment, retention, compliance, choice of outcome measures, and informed consent. We discuss each of these challenges and our responses to them. Finally, we suggest that maintenance therapy trials should be extended in several directions: (a) long-term treatment of bipolar and delusional subtypes in the elderly, as well as depression associated with progressive neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's dementia; (b) assessment of the benefits and risks of long-term therapy with other than tricyclic and monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant agents, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; and (c) development of models of long-term course, including the interaction of treatments with medical and psychosocial variables that can have a profound impact on illness onset and offset. These issues are illustrated with a discussion of a new protocol designed to test the acute and maintenance efficacy of antidepressant therapy for depressed patients with Alzheimer's disease.
The reformulated balanced states of mind (BSOM) model (Schwartz, 1997) proposed new cognitive-affective set-point ratios based on a mathematical model of consciousness (Lefebvre, 1990) to differentiate among pathological, normal and optimal balances. Using data derived from the Affects Balance Scale (Derogatis, 1975), the reformulated set-points were empirically evaluated by tracking changes in affect balance SOM (ratio of positive to total affect) in 66 depressed male outpatients undergoing cognitive-behavior therapy (n = 45) or pharmacotherapy (n = 21). Confidence interval estimations indicated that across treatments both remitted (SOM = .35) and unremitted (SOM = .35) patients had pathological pretreatment affect balances near the predicted set-point (.38). At post-treatment, affect balance for remitted patients (SOM = .74) progressed to a normal dialogue near the predicted set-point (.72), whereas unremitted patients maintained a negative balance (SOM = .41). Using Hamilton and Global Assessment Scale ratings, remitted patients were classified into average and optimal responders. At post-treatment, average responders achieved an affect balance (SOM = .70) near the normal dialogue set-point (.72), whereas optimal responders progressed to an affect balance (SOM = .81) at the optimal dialogue set-point (.81), supporting the theoretical distinction between normal and optimal balance. A mathematically generated measure that distinguishes normality and optimality permits increased quantitative precision in comparative psychotherapy outcome research.
Studies suggest that symptoms of traumatic grief constitute a distinct syndrome worthy of diagnosis.
A consensus conference aimed to develop and test a criteria set for traumatic grief.
The expert panel proposed consensus criteria for traumatic grief. Receiver operator characteristic (ROC) analyses tested the performance of the proposed criteria on 306 widowed respondents at seven months post-loss.
ROC analyses indicated that three of four separation distress symptoms (e.g. yearning, searching, loneliness) had to be endorsed as at least ‘sometimes true’ and four of the final eight traumatic distress symptoms (e.g. numbness, disbelief, distrust, anger, sense of futility about the future) had to be endorsed as at least ‘mostly true’ to yield a sensitivity of 0.93 and a specificity of 0.93 for a diagnosis of traumatic grief.
Preliminary analyses suggest the consensus criteria for traumatic grief have satisfactory operating characteristics, and point to directions for further refinement of the criteria set.
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