Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Increased rate of psychosis and psychomotor change in depression with age fn1

H. BRODATY a1 , G. LUSCOMBE a1 , G. PARKER a1 , K. WILHELM a1 , I. HICKIE a1 , M.-P. AUSTIN a1 and P. MITCHELL a1
a1 From the Mood Disorders Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney; and the School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, NSW, Australia


Background. We examined the phenomenology of depression in younger (<60 years old) versus older ([gt-or-equal, slanted]60 years) subjects and, more specifically, the interaction between age and psychomotor disturbance associated with depression.

Method. Two hundred and eighty-five patients with a DSM-III-R diagnosis of unipolar major depression referred to a mood disorders unit were assessed using the CORE rating scale, a sign-based system for defining melancholia. Subjects were also assessed using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Zung Depression Scale, Newcastle Endogenous Depression Inventory and the General Health Questionnaire.

Results. The total CORE score (and each of its subscales) was found to interact with age. Rates of psychotic and melancholic depression increased with age. Elderly depressives suffered more severe depression (higher HRSD scores), appetite loss and weight loss. Level of psychomotor disturbance and rates of psychosis did not differ between those elderly subjects with an early onset (before the age of 60 years) and those with a late onset (at or after 60 years) of depression.

Conclusions. There appear to be robust phenomenological differences in depression between older and younger subjects. The association between age and psychomotor change may assist our understanding of the neurobiology of depression.


Address for correspondence: Professor Henry Brodaty, Academic Department of Psychogeriatrics, Prince Henry Hospital, Anzac Parade, Little Bay, Sydney, NSW 2036, Australia.

fn1 A brief version of this paper was presented at the Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, Cancun, Mexico, 17–20 February 1995.