OBJECTIVE: This research examined demographic, clinical, and family
factors in elderly depressed patients in order to ascertain which ones were
related to the patients' recovery from and relapse into major depression.
METHOD: One hundred twenty-seven elderly inpatients with a diagnosis of
major depressive disorder according to the Research Diagnostic Criteria
were evaluated at hospital admission and followed prospectively for 1 year.
At the time of each patient's admission, the spouse or an adult child was
also interviewed with measures that examined family-related issues.
Recovery and relapse were determined according to explicit criteria from
the Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation. RESULTS: No demographic or
clinical characteristics of the patients were predictors of recovery or
relapse. Three family variables measured at the time of the patients'
hospitalization were prospectively related to patients' status as not
recovered at follow- up: the spouses' and adult children's psychiatric
symptoms, their reported difficulties in caring for the depressed older
patients, and their poorer physical health. However, relatives' reported
difficulties with patient care were associated with reduced likelihood of
relapse among the subgroup of patients who actually did recover.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings are consistent with research in mixed-age samples
that has documented the influence of interpersonal factors on the course of