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Keywords:

  • depressive symptoms;
  • changes in self-rated health;
  • older adults

OBJECTIVES: To test whether baseline depressive symptoms in older adults increase the risk of subsequent decline in self-rated health and decrease the likelihood of subsequent improvement in self-rated health.

DESIGN: A 2-year prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Six thousand seven hundred fourteen community-dwelling older persons who completed the first and second wave of the Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest-Old Survey in the United States.

PARTICIPANTS: Community-dwelling older people in the United States.

MEASUREMENTS: Baseline depressive symptoms were measured using a short-form of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Self-rated health was measured using a single item of global health rating.

RESULTS: After adjustment for covariates, a high burden of depressive symptoms at baseline was predictive of greater decline in self-rated health (odds ratio (OR) for decline in those with high burden of depressive symptoms vs those without = 1.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.26–1.70). Likewise, high burden of depressive symptoms at baseline predicted less improvement in self-rated health (OR for improvement in those with high burden of depressive symptoms vs those without = 0.57, 95% CI = 0.50–0.65).

CONCLUSIONS: Depressive symptomatology is an independent risk factor for subsequent changes in self-rated health in older adults. Thus, early prevention and intervention of depressive symptoms in community-dwelling older adults might be critical to promote and maintain their self-rated health.