Public Release: 

Older adults with metabolic syndrome may be more resistant to depression treatments

American Geriatrics Society

Researchers suspect that having Metabolic Syndrome makes it harder for older adults to respond to therapies for depression. (Metabolic Syndrome is a mix of conditions like increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels). In a new, first of its kind study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined whether Metabolic Syndrome in depressed older adults affects their response to antidepressant treatment.

Older adults who have major depressive disorder (MDD, also known as depression) are at higher risk for having problems thinking and making decisions. They are more likely to have trouble performing their regular daily activities and managing their personal care. These problems can lead to poorer health in general and a higher risk of death compared to older adults who are not depressed.

The study included adults aged 60 and older with Metabolic Syndrome and depression (confirmed by two separate assessments). Researchers treated participants with the antidepressant venlafaxine. After six weeks of treatment, the dose was increased if participants' depression scores were still high. Participants had follow-up visits every one to two weeks. Participants were evaluated for their response to treatment again after 12 weeks.

The researchers noted three key findings in people with Metabolic Syndrome:

  • Their life history of depression was more chronic.
  • Their depression symptoms at the beginning of the study were more severe.
  • They took longer to respond to antidepressant therapy.
  • What does this mean? The researchers said that older adults with Metabolic Syndrome may be an important group of people for healthcare providers to pay close attention to when screening for and treating depression.

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This summary is from "Impact of Metabolic Syndrome on Late-Life Depression: Associations with Disease Severity and Treatment Resistance". It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are John S. Mulvahill, MD; Ginger E. Nicol, MD; David Dixon, PhD; Eric J. Lenze, MD; Jordan Karp, MD; Charles F. Reynolds III, MD; Daniel M. Blumberger, MD; Benoit H. Mulsant, MD.

About the Health in Aging Foundation

This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through HealthinAging.org. We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit http://www.HealthinAgingFoundation.org.

About the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Included in more than 9,000 library collections around the world, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) highlights emerging insights on principles of aging, approaches to older patients, geriatric syndromes, geriatric psychiatry, and geriatric diseases and disorders. First published in 1953, JAGS is now one of the oldest and most impactful publications on gerontology and geriatrics, according to ISI Journal Citation Reports®. Visit wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/JGS for more details.

About the American Geriatrics Society

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has--for 75 years--worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.

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