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Frailty, depression symptoms linked in older spouses, study says

Older people with a frail or depressed spouse are more likely to become frail or depressed themselves.

By Stephen Feller
Frailty, depression symptoms linked in older spouses, study says
In addition to all the good things older married couples share, researchers found in a recent study that frailty and depression in one spouse increases the chance the other spouse will develop the same condition. Photo by AK3000/Shutterstock

NEW YORK, April 29 (UPI) -- They say married couples share everything, and now a study suggests spouses can share conditions such as frailty and depression.

Researchers at the American Geriatric Society found depression and frailty are linked among older people -- if you've got one, there's a higher likelihood you'll develop the other -- and that if one spouse in a couple has one of the conditions, the other is more likely to develop it as well.

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About 10 percent of older adults are considered frail, characterized by a combination of low body weight, weakness, exhaustion, slowness or physical inactivity, while between 1 and 2 percent of older Americans have major depression, according to AGS.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers analyzed data on 1,260 married couples over age 65 collected as part of the Cardiovascular Health Study between 1989 and 1999.

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Individually, the researchers found the more frail an older person is, the more likely it is they will develop depression, and the more depressed a person is more likely it is they will become frail.

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The spouses of people who are frail or depressed also are more likely to develop the same condition, which then increases the chance they'll develop the other.

Senior living facilities may consider ways to get residents, especially couples, more active physically and socially, as well as encourage mutual support among them, the researchers said in a press release.

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"Frailty and depressive symptoms are interrelated in older adult spouses," researchers write in the study. "For older couples, interventions to prevent or treat frailty and depression that focus on couples may be more effective than those that focus on individuals."

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