Depressive Multimorbidity and Trajectories of Functional Status among Older Americans: Differences by Racial/Ethnic Group

Published:December 16, 2022DOI:


      This study aims to evaluate the impact of depressive multimorbidity (ie, including depressive symptoms) on the long-term development of activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) limitations according to racial/ethnic group in a representative sample of US older adults.


      Prospective, observational, population-based 16-year follow-up study of nationally representative sample.

      Setting and Participants

      Sample of older non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and nonHispanic White Americans from the Health and Retirement Study (2000‒2016, N = 16,364, community-dwelling adults ≥65 years of age).


      Data from 9 biennial assessments were used to evaluate the accumulation of ADL-IADL limitations (range 0‒11) among participants with depressive (8-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression score≥4) vs somatic (ie, physical conditions only) multimorbidity vs those without multimorbidity (no or 1 condition). Generalized estimating equations included race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic White), baseline age, sex, body mass index, education, partnered, and net worth.


      Depressive and somatic multimorbidity were associated with 5.18 and 2.95 times greater accumulation of functional limitations, respectively, relative to no disease [incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 5.18, 95% confidence interval, CI (4.38,6.13), IRR = 2.95, 95% CI (2.51,3.48)]. Hispanic and Black respondents experienced greater accumulation of ADL-IADL limitations than White respondents [IRR = 1.27, 95% CI (1.14, 1.41), IRR = 1.31, 95% CI (1.20, 1.43), respectively].

      Conclusions and Implications

      Combinations of somatic diseases and high depressive symptoms are associated with greatest accumulation of functional limitations over time in adults ages 65 and older. There is a more rapid growth in functional limitations among individuals from racial/ethnic minority groups. Given the high prevalence of multimorbidity and depressive symptomatology among older adults and the availability of treatment options for depression, these results highlight the importance of screening/treatment for depression, particularly among older adults with socioeconomic vulnerabilities, to slow the progression of functional decline in later life


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