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Innovation in Aging




Background: While the association between depressive symptoms and chronic illness has been the subject of many studies, little is known about whether depressive symptoms differ as a function of the illnesses people have as they transition to living with multiple chronic conditions.

Methods: Self-reports of five diagnosed chronic conditions (arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and pulmonary disease) and depressive symptoms were provided by 3,396 people participating in three waves of the ORANJ BOWL

Results: Between 2006 and 2014, controlling for age, gender, income, race, and a lifetime diagnosis of depression, people who transitioned to having a diagnosis of multiple chronic conditions had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than people who did not make this transition. The diagnosis of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary disease, but not hypertension had independent effects, increasing depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: Having a diagnosis of multiple chronic conditions leads to increases in depressive symptoms, but not all illnesses have the same effect. Findings highlight the need for clinicians to be aware of mental health risks in patients diagnosed with multiple chronic conditions, particularly those with a diagnosis of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary disease. Clinical care providers should take account of these findings, encouraging psychosocial supports for older adults who develop multiple chronic conditions to minimize the negative psychological impact of illness diagnosis.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.