Over half of malnourished patients in hospital
also show signs of depression, according to a small-scale study
presented today at the International Congress of the Royal College
of Psychiatrists in Edinburgh.
Doctors from Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals
NHS Trust in London studied 129 elderly patients who were admitted
to medical wards in August 2009. They were assessed for
malnutrition and depression.
The mean age of the patients was 80.2 years.
70 (54%) of the patients showed signs of malnutrition and 60 (47%)
had depression. 40 of the 70 malnourished patients (57%) were also
depressed. Of the non-malnourished patients, only 9 (15%) were
Dr Shakil Alam, lead author of the study,
said: “We found that nutritional deficit was significantly
associated with depression. However, further research is needed to
find the direction of causation in this relationship – does being
depressed put people at greater risk of malnutrition, or does
malnutrition make people depressed? Or is there another factor at
Malnutrition and depression are very common in
the elderly, and can lead have serious implications. Dr Alam said:
“Our study shows that health professionals need to take the
problems of malnutrition and depression extremely seriously. If
staff identify patients as suffering from one of these problems, it
should prompt screening for the other.”
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The research was presented at the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Edinburgh, 21-24 June 2010.