Depression among elderly people with and without heart failure, managed in a primary healthcare setting


Lena Hägglund, Department of Nursing, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden.


Background and research objectives:  Depression is common among patients with heart failure (HF) and among elderly in general. Problems in diagnosing and care planning can arise as symptoms of HF, dyspnoea and especially fatigue, are nonspecific and also overlap with symptoms of depression. The objective of this study was to describe the prevalence and compare degrees of depression among patients with confirmed HF, patients with symptoms similar to HF (no heart failure, NHF) and a reference group in one primary healthcare centre (PHC), after adjusting for background characteristics and fatigue.

Subjects and methods:  A descriptive case-reference study was conducted in one PHC in a middle-sized city. Participants were 49 patients with confirmed HF, 59 patients with symptoms similar to HF (NHF) and 40 people in a reference group. After informed consent data were collected by structured interviews using the Geriatric Depression Scale and the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory-20. Odds ratios for the outcomes HF vs. NHF, HF vs. reference group, and NHF vs. reference group were calculated.

Results:  The HF and NHF groups had similar degrees of depression which were significantly higher than for the reference group. This difference between the groups did not remain significant when adjusting for physical fatigue. More patients in the NHF than in the HF group were living alone and there were more women in the NHF than in the reference group.

Conclusions:  Prevalence of depression and degrees of fatigue were higher among elderly from a PHC who experienced HF symptoms, independent of objectively measured heart function, compared with elderly without such symptoms. When comparing degrees of depression between the three groups and adjusting for fatigue, the physical dimension of fatigue was of greater importance in explaining group differences.