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Keywords:

  • depression symptoms;
  • hospitalized older adults;
  • elderly;
  • function;
  • mortality

Objectives

To determine the relationship between depressive symptoms after hospitalization and survival and functional outcomes.

Design

Secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study.

Setting

General medical service of two urban, teaching hospitals in Ohio.

Participants

Hospitalized individuals aged 70 and older.

Measurements

Ten depressive symptoms, instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), and basic activities of daily living (ADLs) were measured at hospital discharge and 1, 3, 6, and 12 months later. Participant-specific changes in depressive symptoms (slopes) were determined using all data points. Four groups were also defined according to number of depressive symptoms (≤3 symptoms, low; 4–10 symptoms, high) at discharge and follow-up: low–low, low–high, high–low, and high–high. Mortality was measured 3, 6, and 12 months after hospital discharge.

Results

Participant-specific discharge depressive symptoms and change in depressive symptoms over time (slopes) were associated (P < .05) with functional and mortality outcomes. At 1 year, more participants in the low–low depressive symptom group (49%) were alive and independent in IADLs and ADLs than in the low–high group (37%, P = .02), and more participants in the high–low group (39%) were alive and independent in IADLs and ADLs than in the high–high group (19%, P < .001).

Conclusion

Number of depressive symptoms and change in number of depressive symptoms during the year after discharge were associated with functional and mortality outcomes in hospitalized older adults. Fewer participants with persistently high or increasing depressive symptoms after hospitalization were alive and functionally independent 1 year later than participants with decreasing or persistently low symptoms, respectively.