Early- and late-onset depression in the older: no differences found within the melancholic subtype




Several studies have reported clinical and biological differences between early- and late-onset (EO and LO) depression, which suggest different underlying aetiological processes. The aim of the present study is to examine whether there are differences between EO and LO depressed patients with melancholy, controlling for current age, with regard to clinical variables, vascular risk factors and family history of affective disorders or suicide.


One hundred and twenty-one melancholic patients were divided into three groups: patients with current age and onset earlier than 60 (N = 60), patients aged 60 or over and with onset at 60 or later (N = 30) and patients aged 60 or over and with onset before the age of 60 (N = 31). Systematic clinical data were collected with the structured interview 'The Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia'. Symptom ratings at admission and at discharge were assessed by means of the 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Hamilton Anxiety Scale and the Widlöcher Depression Retardation Scale. Family history of affective disorders or suicide was obtained using the Family History Research Diagnostic Criteria. Vascular risk factors were also recorded.


The only symptoms that differed across the groups were feelings of anger and irritability, which scored lower in the LO older group. No other significant differences were found in the variables studied.


According to this study, LO depression with melancholia should not be considered as a distinct entity. Further studies on EO and LO-depression should consider this diagnostic subtype, among others, as a key variable. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.