In a new study, researchers found older people who were newly diagnosed with depression had a slower walking speed and a shorter step length compared with those without depression.
Gait parameters and mental health both have significant impacts on functional status in later life.
Depression in later life is difficult to diagnose and older people are much less likely to present to a healthcare professional with mood-related symptoms.
The study’s findings suggest that gait problems may represent a potentially modifiable risk factor for depression.
These findings are important because it is crucial to identify older individuals at higher risk of developing depression in order to promote earlier intervention.
This study also raises the possibility that exercise programs aimed at improving walking speed and balance may help in prevention of depression in later life, though this would need to be tested in dedicated clinical studies.
The lead author is Dr. Robert Briggs of St. James’s Hospital, in Ireland.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
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Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.