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OBJECTIVES: To determine the association between depression and functional recovery in community-living older persons who had a decline in function after an acute hospital admission.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: General community in greater New Haven, Connecticut, from March 1998 to December 2008.

PARTICIPANTS: Seven hundred fifty-four persons aged 70 and older.

MEASUREMENTS: Hospitalization and disability in essential activities of daily living (ADLs) and mobility were assessed each month for up to 129 months, and depressive symptoms were assessed every 18 months using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D). Functional recovery was defined as returning to the community within 6 months at or above the prehospital level of ADL function and mobility.

RESULTS: A decline in ADL function and mobility was observed after 42% and 41% of the hospitalizations, respectively. After controlling for several potential confounders, clinically significant depressive symptoms (CES-D score >=20) was associated with a lower likelihood of recovering mobility function (hazard ratio (HR)=0.79, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.63-0.98) but not ADL function (HR=0.91, 95% CI=0.75-1.10) within 6 months of hospitalization.

CONCLUSION: After a disabling hospitalization, community-living older persons with preexisting depression may be less likely to recover their prehospitalization level of mobility function but not ADL function, although the reasons remain to be elucidated.

(C) 2011 by the American Geriatrics Society