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Slow Walking Speed is a Strong Indicator of Future Depressive Symptoms in Elderly Patients

Psychomotor activity is a strong indicator of mood disorders.  Psychomotor slowing in adults with depression may indicate a dimension of symptoms that can facilitate the process of diagnosing the depression subtype and deciding on the best treatment.  Due to age-related factors, psychomotor activity pertaining to both cognition and gait speed can significantly decline.

The decline of psychomotor functioning is a primary characteristic of depression in later life.  However, research regarding its prognostic value with respect to trajectory and chronic severity is scarce.  Thus, researchers recently explored how walking speed can be an indicator of future long-term effects of depressive symptoms in older adults.  They also investigated whether psychological decline and risk factors for vascular diseases could clarify this relationship.  Moreover, researchers studied whether a marker of chronic inflammation and certain somatic conditions could clarify the relationship.

In regards to the methods of the study, researchers analyzed the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, which was a population-based study in which 271 older adult participants with clinical depressive symptoms were studied for a duration of six years. Utilizing fourteen successive Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale observations, three clinical course types of symptoms of depression were characterized.

In regards to the results of the study, researchers found that remission was seen in 21% of the participants; fluctuating course of depressive symptoms was observed in 48% of participants and chronic course was observed in 30%. Slow walking speed was significantly indicative of chronic depressive symptoms using remission as the guide. Cognitive processing speed and risk factors of vascular illness was related only for 2%.

The researchers found that decreased walking speed is a strong predictor of chronic depressive symptoms in older adults, not related to somatic comorbidity and partly associated with a declined cognitive processing speed. The results of the study indicate that declined walking speed is a critical part of the depressive syndrome, most likely a subtype related to chronic course.
Care providers that oversee patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities should be educated on these types of common indicators portrayed in older adults.  A deep understanding of the telltale symptoms that can lead to chronic illnesses such as depression can prevent their onset through the use of efficient interventions and appropriate quality of care.