Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Effects of major depression on the cognitive function of younger and older subjects

A. F. Tarbucka1 c1 and E. S. Paykela1

a1 Department of Old Age Psychiatry, Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge; Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge


The effects of age and depression on cognitive function were investigated in two groups of in-patient major depressives aged under and over 60 years who were tested when depressed and after recovery. The majority of the tests showed impaired performance during depression with improvement after recovery, and also differences between the two age-groups in both the depressed and recovered phases. However, the older subjects were not more severely affected by depression than the younger subjects. The pattern of impairment associated with depression was different to that associated with older age: depression affected performance on more ‘complex tasks’, whereas age was associated particularly with slowing on timed tests. This study did not suggest that the impairment from baseline due to depression is greater in the elderly than in younger subjects.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Andrew F. Tarbuck, Psychiatric Services for the Elderly, Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge, CB1 5EF.