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Previous results have been mixed regarding the role of the apolipoprotein E e4 (APOE e4) allele in later-life depression: some studies note that carriers experience greater symptoms and increased risk while others find no such association. However, there are few prospective, population-based studies of the APOE e4-depression association and fewer that examine depressive symptom trajectory and depression risk longitudinally. We examined the association between APOE e4 allele status and longitudinal change in depressive symptoms and depression risk in later-life, over a 12-year follow-up period.
We used data from 690 participants of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 who took part in the Scottish Mental Survey 1947 (aged 11) and were followed-up in later-life over five waves from 2004 to 2019 (aged 70–82). We used APOE e4 allele status to predict longitudinal change in depressive symptom scores and risk of depression (defined by a symptom score threshold or use of depression-related medication). Models were adjusted for sex, childhood cognitive ability, childhood social class, education, adult social class, smoking status and functional limitations at baseline.
Depressive symptom scores increased with age. Once adjusted for covariates, APOE e4 allele status did not significantly predict symptom score trajectories or depression risk. Greater functional limitations at baseline significantly predicted poorer symptom score trajectories and increased depression risk (defined by medications). APOE e4 allele status did not significantly moderate the contribution of sex, education or functional limitations.
There was no evidence that APOE e4 carriers experience an increased risk for later-life depression.
Loneliness is a growing public health issue in the developed world. Among older adults, loneliness is a particular challenge, as the older segment of the population is growing and loneliness is comorbid with many mental as well as physical health issues. Comorbidity and common cause factors make identifying the antecedents of loneliness difficult, however, contemporary machine learning techniques are positioned to tackle this problem.
This study analyzed four cohorts of older individuals, split into two age groups – 45–69 and 70–79 – to examine which common psychological and sociodemographic are associated with loneliness at different ages. Gradient boosted modeling, a machine learning technique, and regression models were used to identify and replicate associations with loneliness.
In all cohorts, higher emotional stability was associated with lower loneliness. In the older group, social circumstances such as living alone were also associated with higher loneliness. In the younger group, extraversion's association with lower loneliness was the only other confirmed relationship.
Different individual and social factors might underlie loneliness differences in distinct age groups. Machine learning methods have the potential to unveil novel associations between psychological and social variables, particularly interactions, and mental health outcomes.
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