Functional Impairment, Physical Disease, and Depression in Older Adults

  • Antonette M. Zeiss
  • Peter M. Lewinsohn
  • Paul Rohde
Part of the The Plenum Series in Culture and Health book series (PSCH)


Elderly adults with physical health problems are frequently reported to be vulnerable to depression. This pattern has been reported for older patients with a wide variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (Creed & Ash, 1992; Frank et al., 1988), stroke, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, vitamin deficiencies (Finch, Ramsay, & Katona, 1992), hypertension, myocardial infarction, and diabetes (Wells, Rogers, Burnam, & Camp, 1993). Other researchers have adopted an epidemiological strategy looking at a variety of physical disease problems in community populations, rather than focusing on single disease categories. Hughes, DeMallie, and Blazer (1993) reported that scores on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977) in the elderly are related to both higher mean illness index scores and impaired social support scores. Katona (1992) reported a higher prevalence of depression, compared to that found in other community studies, in elders attending primary care clinics, acute geriatric admissions, continuing care geriatric patients, and elders with acute hip fractures. One of the most frequently cited references for the idea that physical illness is the strongest correlate of depression in the elderly is a book by Gurland and his colleagues (Gurland et al., 1983). Interestingly, while authors who cite that book almost always emphasize the disease-depression relationship, it is seldom mentioned that the authors (Gurland et al., 1983) included disability and dependence (i.e., indices of functional impairment), along with disease, as determinants of depression in the elderly.


Rheumatoid Arthritis Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Functional Impairment Functional Disability Physical Illness 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonette M. Zeiss
    • 1
  • Peter M. Lewinsohn
    • 2
  • Paul Rohde
    • 2
  1. 1.Geriatric Research Education and Clinical CenterVeterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care SystemPalo Alto
  2. 2.Oregon Research InstituteEugene

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