Impact of physical illness on quality of life and antidepressant response in geriatric major depression

Gary W. Small, Martin Birkett, Barnett S. Meyers, Lorrin M. Koran, Alexander Bystritsky, Charles B. Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Because physical illness may influence quality of life, we assessed its impact on functional status and treatment outcome in older depressed patients who participated in a clinical trial, which showed a significantly higher remission rate for fluoxetine over placebo (31.6% vs 18.6%, P < .001). DESIGN: Six-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trial of fluoxetine, 20 mg daily. SETTING: Multiple clinical sites, both university and private. PARTICIPANTS: Outpatients (N = 671) were ≤ 60 years (mean ± SD = 67.7 ± 5.7), met DSM-III-R criteria for unipolar major depression and had baseline scores ≤ 16 on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. MEASUREMENTS: The 36 item short-form health survey (SF-36) was used to measure baseline and posttreatment functional health and well-being. Physical illness was rated by number of current chronic or historical illnesses. Change from baseline to endpoint in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale total score was used to measure depression outcome. MAIN RESULTS: Most patients reported physical illness: 83% had one or more chronic illness, and 89% had one or more historical illness. Greater numbers of baseline chronic illness indicated worse physical functioning, general health perceptions, and vitality and greater bodily pain and role limitation from physical problems. Historical physical illness was associated with worse physical functioning, vitality, general health perceptions, social functioning, and mental health. Although the number of chronic illnesses did notinfluence treatment response, historical physical illness was associated with greater fluoxetine response and lower placebo response. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that both current and previous physical illness are associated with lower quality of life in geriatric depression and that depressed older patients with chronic physical illness respond to antidepressants as well as those without such illness. Recovery from previous physical illness should be explored as a potential predictor of antidepressant treatment outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1220-1225
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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