SENIORS: Depression Linked to Onset of New Diseases
According to a University of Michigan study, depression in the elderly may be just as harmful as smoking and may lead to the development of new diseases, the Detroit News reports. The study of more than 6,000 Americans at least 70 years old was based on 1993 and 1995 data taken for the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study. Caroline Blaum, assistant professor of internal medicine at the UM Medical School, said that seniors who smoked or had symptoms of depression were 34% more likely to develop new diseases. "In this study, depression was just as strong risk factor for disease as smoking," Blaum said. The findings, Blaum said, show that depression should be treated with the "same seriousness that smoking recently has garnered from medical professionals." In the study, Blaum researched how age, race, body mass index, smoking, physical limitations and depression were related to the odds of developing new diseases. She added, "The effect is seen with relatively mild depression symptoms, such as decreased energy and restless sleeping -- not just severe clinical depression" (Webster, 12/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.