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The development of depressive symptoms in older adults from a network perspective in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

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Ford, Tamsin J 


An increased understanding of the interrelations between depressive symptoms among older populations could help improve interventions. However, studies often use sum scores to understand depression in older populations, neglecting important symptom dynamics that can be elucidated in evolving depressive symptom networks. We computed Cross-Lagged Panel Network Models (CLPN) of depression symptoms in 11,391 adults from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Adults aged 50 and above (mean age 65) were followed over 16 years throughout this nine-wave representative population study. Using the eight-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, we computed eight CLPNs covering each consecutive wave. Across waves, networks were consistent with respect to the strength of lagged associations (edge weights) and the degree of interrelationships among symptoms (centrality indices). Everything was an effort and could not get going displayed the strongest reciprocal cross-lagged associations across waves. These two symptoms and loneliness were core symptoms as reflected in strong incoming and outgoing connections. Feeling depressed was strongly predicted by other symptoms only (incoming but not strong outgoing connections were observed) and thus was not related to new symptom onset. Restless sleep had outgoing connections only and thus was a precursor to other depression symptoms. Being happy and enjoying life were the least central symptoms. This research underscores the relevance of somatic symptoms in evolving depression networks among older populations. Findings suggest the central symptoms from the present study (everything was an effort, could not get going, loneliness) may be potential key intervention targets to mitigate depression in older adults.



Longitudinal Studies, Depression, Loneliness, Sleep

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Transl Psychiatry

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Wellcome Trust (204845/Z/16/Z)