Slower Gait Speed, Shorter Step Length Tied to Later Depression

Slowest tertile for gait speed, shortest tertile for step length tied to higher likelihood of depression

FRIDAY, Feb. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Older people who develop depression have significantly slower gait speed and shorter step length several years before diagnosis, according to a study published online Feb. 5 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Robert Briggs, MB.B.Ch., from Trinity College Dublin, and colleagues used the GAITRite system to assess spatiotemporal gait parameters at baseline (wave 1). The authors also assessed incident depression at two and four years (waves 2/3) among 3,615 nondepressed (at baseline) community-dwelling adults ≥50 years participating in the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging.

The researchers found that participants with incident depression (344 patients) had slower gait speed (129.9 versus 134.1 cm/s) and shorter step length (68 versus 79.3 cm) at baseline compared with those who did not develop depression. Those within the slowest tertile for gait speed and shortest tertile for step length had a significantly increased likelihood of incident depression in fully adjusted models (odds ratios, 1.54 and 1.54, respectively). There was no association between measures of step width or double support time and depression.

"These findings are clinically significant given the impact both conditions have on functional status in later life, as well as the possibility that gait problems may represent a potentially modifiable risk factor for depression," the authors write.

The study was supported in part by insurance company Irish Life.

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