• depression;
  • aging;
  • elderly;
  • vascular disease;
  • sex differences;
  • longitudinal studies


Associations between vascular disease and depression in late life, including increased white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), have been reported. Whether depression is an etiology or a consequence of vascular disease is still unknown. We investigated the temporal relationship between depressive symptoms and WMHs in older men and women.


We utilized data from 90 dementia-free older adults (39 women, 51 men), 57 years of age and older at baseline, from the neuroimaging substudy of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Participants were followed for up to 8 years. Ratings of white matter disease burden were available for the first, last, and at least one interim visit, and participants completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) annually. Statistical models, performed separately in men and women, examined whether depressive symptoms predicted subsequent WMH ratings or WMHs predicted subsequent depressive symptoms.


The total CES-D score was not associated with WMHs in men or women. In men, the CES-D depressed mood subscale predicted accelerating longitudinal increases in WMHs at older ages, but WMHs did not predict subsequent depressive symptoms. In women, there were no significant associations between the CES-D depressed mood subscale and WMHs.


White matter disease may be a consequence of depressed mood in men but not in women. Intervention strategies for depression may slow the progression of white matter disease in older men. These results add to previous findings documenting sex differences in the correlates of depressive disorders in late life. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.