BACKGROUND Depression affects a significant proportion of the expanding elderly population in the UK. Reports of a poorer prognosis for older than for younger adult patients have been challenged by recent papers.
METHOD The casenotes of 56 adults (mean age 47.8 years) and 54 elderly (mean age 72.9 years) patients with primary depression were assessed one year after receiving hospital treatment. Outcome measures were compared with earlier reported findings and factors possibly influencing outcome were explored.
RESULTS The pattern of outcome in both age groups was broadly similar, thus: adults v. elderly: recovered 44.6% v. 44.4%; relapsed and recovered 23.2% v. 24%; residual symptoms 19.6% v. 13% and chronic depression 7.1% v. 5.5%. In the adults there were two natural deaths and one suicide. In the elderly there were two cases of dementia and five natural deaths, which was double the expected death rate. Predictors of poor outcome were melancholic depression in adults and longer duration of illness at intake and an increasing number of previous episodes of affective disorder in the elderly.
CONCLUSION The outcome of treated depressive illnesses appears similar in elderly and adult patients. Associated physical ill health did not adversely affect outcome in the elderly group.