OBJECTIVES: To investigate the independent associations between folate, B12, and homocysteine levels and depressive symptoms in older adults.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.
SETTING: Resident population in southeast Singapore.
PARTICIPANTS: Six hundred sixty-nine community-living noninstitutionalized Chinese adults aged 55 and older.
MEASUREMENTS: Laboratory values of folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine were examined for their independent relationships with depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) score ≥5).
RESULTS: Respondents with depression (n=178) had lower mean serum folate concentrations (21.5 nmol/L) than those without (n=491, 24.0 nmol/L, P=.04). There was a linear relationship between descending quartiles of folate concentrations and increasing odds of association with depressive symptoms, independent of other risk factors (demographic, psychosocial, alcohol and smoking, chronic morbidity, functional status, nutritional risk, albumin, anemia, depression-inducing medications, use of antidepressants and vitamin supplements), including B12 and homocysteine (P for trend=.02). The odds ratio (OR) of association between low folate (lowest quartile: <14.6 nmol/L) and depressive symptoms independent of other risk factors, including homocysteine and B12, was 1.72 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.11–2.66). Vitamin B12 across a range of values did not show a linear association, but B12 deficiency (<180 pmol/L) appeared to be significantly associated with depressive symptoms (OR=2.68, 95% CI=1.20–6.00), independent of folate and homocysteine.
CONCLUSION: Decreasing and low levels of serum folate and deficient levels of B12 were associated with greater risk of depressive symptoms in older Chinese adults.