The aim of this study was to evaluate whether prefrailty was associated with the risk of developing depression and if longitudinal changes in frailty status corresponded to changes in incident depression during follow up.
A population-based, prospective cohort study was conducted for 4.4 years in two separate geographic areas near the city of Padua in the Veneto Region of Northern Italy. In 891 nondepressed, nonfrail, community-dwelling Italian subjects aged ≥ 65 (46.6% men) belonging to the Progetto Veneto Anziani study, depression was defined according to the Geriatric Depression Scale and was confirmed by geriatricians skilled in psychogeriatric medicine. Prefrailty was defined by the presence of one or two criteria among the Fried criteria.
The incidence rate of depression was 13.3% among subjects improving their frailty status at follow-up (N = 15), 15.0% in those who remained stable (N = 79), and 26.7% among worsening participants (N = 67) (p = 0.001). Prefrailty at baseline did not predict the onset of depression (HR: 0.82; 95% CI: 0.55-1.21; Wald χ2 = 0.73; df = 1; p = 0.43), but a deterioration during follow-up in at least one additional frailty criteria was associated with a significantly higher risk (HR: 1.95; 95% CI: 1.32-2.89; Wald χ2 = 5.78; df = 2; p = 0.01). Improvement in frailty status was not associated with the risk of incident depression (HR: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.35-1.42; Wald χ2 = 0.47; df = 2; p = 0.28).
The data did not offer evidence that prefrailty per se predisposes to the onset of depression, but worsening in frailty status is associated with an almost twofold increased risk of incident depression, irrespective from the initial level of impairment.