Study suggests depression in the elderly could increase risk of death

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Depressed older people may face a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and death, a new study has found.

Researchers, led by Dr. Joseph Gallo of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, studied more than 1,200 patients 60 and older for a two-year period.  Their findings:  Of the 598 participants diagnosed with depression, 64 had died at the end of the two years.  Depression in the group of patients studied was equal to cardiovascular disease and diabetes in terms of raising death risk.

While Gallo admits that it is still unclear how depression increases death rates, the study results may suggest that depression may have a direct effect on the immune system.

The study was reported in the September issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.