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Keywords:

  • allostatic load;
  • cross-sectional studies;
  • depression;
  • National Health and Nutrition Survey Examination

Objective

To evaluate the association between multisystem physiological dysfunction and depressive symptom severity in the US older adults.

Methods

We examined 2405 adults of age 60 years and older by using the data from the 2005–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. We constructed a summary score of “physiological dysfunction,” encompassing cardiovascular function, glucose regulation, liver function, and renal function. Overall depressive symptoms were obtained from the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire depression scale, and factor analysis was used to derive affective and somatic symptom scores. We employed multiple linear regression models to estimate associations between physiological dysfunction scores and affective, somatic, and overall depressive symptoms, while adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic factors, and other potentially confounding factors.

Results

Greater multisystem physiological dysfunction scores were associated with an increased severity of overall, affective, and somatic depressive symptoms. These associations persisted after adjusting for all covariates: beta = 0.23 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.13, 0.32); beta = 0.08 (95% CI = 0.04, 0.11); beta = 0.12 (95% CI = 0.06, 0.18), respectively.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that the multisystem physiological dysfunction is associated with late-life depressive symptoms. Additional longitudinal studies of links between allostatic load, psychosocial stress events throughout the life course, and late-life depressive symptoms may shed further light on this association. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.