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Phenomenology of depression in older compared with younger adults: meta-analysis.

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Full Article: Phenomenology of depression in older compared with younger adults- meta-analysis

Hegeman JM1, Kok RM, van der Mast RC, Giltay EJ.



Late-life depression may differ from early-life depression in its phenomenology.


To investigate the effect of age on the phenomenology of major depression.


A systematic search was conducted in PubMed, Embase and PsycINFO for all studies examining the relation between age and phenomenology of major depression according to RDC, DSM and ICD criteria. Studies were included only if the age groups were compared at the single-item level using the 17-, 21- or 24-item versions of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression; a meta-analysis was done for each item of the 17-item scale.


Eleven papers met the inclusion criteria. Older depressed adults, compared with younger depressed adults, demonstrated more agitation, hypochondriasis and general as well as gastrointestinal somatic symptoms, but less guilt and loss of sexual interest.


The phenomenology of late-life depression differs only in part from that of early-life depression. Major depression in older people may have a more somatic presentation, whereas feelings of guilt and loss of sexual function may be more prevalent in younger people.

Published: Br J Psychiatry. 2012 Apr;200(4):275-81.