Psychotic major depression in older people: a systematic review




This study aimed to systematically review available evidence relevant to the following issues: (1) whether psychotic major depression (PMD) in older people differs in overall severity from non-PMD, besides the presence of psychotic symptoms; (2) whether it constitutes a distinct clinical entity from non-PMD; and (3) whether it differs from PMD in younger adults.


A computerized MEDLINE, PsycINFO and the entire Cochrane Library search has been performed in June 2013 for prospective controlled studies investigating PMD features in older people.


Thirty-five relevant studies were identified. PMD in older people compared with non-PMD has been shown to present with overall more severe depressive symptomatology, more psychomotor disturbance, more guilt feelings, more depressive episodes with psychosis, worse prognosis, more severe executive dysfunction associated with frontal lobe atrophy, and lower serum dopamine β-hydroxylase activity. No differences in the efficacy of an antidepressant plus antipsychotic combination versus antidepressant monotherapy in the acute treatment as well as in the maintenance treatment were found. PMD in older patients is characterized by more somatic complaints and delusions of hypochondriacal and impending disaster content and by a lower comorbidity with anxiety disorders compared with PMD in younger adults.


Psychotic major depression in older people is associated with higher severity in most clinically important key features than in non-PMD. However, available evidence is still insufficient for the conclusive elucidation of its nosological status. Finally, the differences between PMD in older and younger patients can be attributed to biological and psychosocial changes of old age. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.