Courtesy Hotchkiss Brain Institute – Kathryn Sloniowski
New research from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, shows that adults over the age of 50 with at least one chronic illness (such as migraine) are more likely to experience a major depressive episode, than those living without a chronic illness. The discovery brings awareness to prevention efforts targeting older adults exhibiting symptoms of depression or chronic illnesses.
The study, which was published in the June edition of Journal of Affective Disorders, utilized data collected by Statistics Canada between May and December 2002, from the Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health and Wellbeing. Information was analyzed from 15,591 participants over the age of 50, while a separate analysis was done for people over 65 years of age. The study focused on ‘community dwelling’ adults, participants not living in a hospital, care facility or retirement home.
“Depression is a leading cause of disease burden and years of life lost worldwide. Many chronic illnesses occur simultaneously with depression, and it is important to understand how they are related to aid in prevention and treatment efforts,” says Kirsten Fiest, lead author and trainee in the HBI.
The survey included the classification 36 chronic illnesses. In questioning individuals, the survey asked participants if they had been diagnosed with the condition by a health practitioner, and if the condition has lasted for more than six months. Illnesses including (but not limited to), cataracts, diabetes, migraines, cancer and bowel disorders were listed. The study found that chronic illnesses are highly prevalent in Canadian seniors, but found the three chronic illnesses with the highest comorbidity with major depression are chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and migraine.
Dr. Scott Patten, HBI member and professor of psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine says, “Depression can affect cognitive function, creating difficulty in adhering to treatments. It also zaps people of the energy and optimism that are so badly needed in coping with chronic illnesses. In some instances, it makes symptoms worse. For example, depression tends to magnify the experience of pain.”
With the number of seniors expected to double over the next 25 to 50 years, this information is vital to create awareness for both individuals and health practitioners.
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Alberta Health Services.