Year: 2022 Source: Translational Psychiatry. (2021). 11, 557. SIEC No: 20220006

The clinical presentation of late-life depression is highly heterogeneous and likely influenced by the co-presence of somatic diseases. Using a network approach, this study aims to explore how depressive symptoms are interconnected with each other, as well as with different measures of somatic disease burden in older adults. We examined cross-sectional data on 2860 individuals aged 60+ from the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen, Stockholm. The severity of sixteen depressive symptoms was clinically assessed with the Comprehensive Psychopathological Rating Scale. We combined data from individual clinical assessment and health-registers to construct eight system-specific disease clusters (cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, metabolic, musculoskeletal, respiratory, sensory, and unclassified), along with a measure of overall somatic burden. The interconnection among depressive symptoms, and with disease clusters was explored through networks based on Spearman partial correlations. Bridge centrality index and network loadings were employed to identify depressive symptoms directly connecting disease clusters and depression. Sadness, pessimism, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts were the most interconnected symptoms of the depression network, while somatic symptoms of depression were less interconnected. In the network integrating depressive symptoms with disease clusters, suicidal thoughts, reduced appetite, and cognitive difficulties constituted the most consistent bridge connections. The same bridge symptoms emerged when considering an overall measure of somatic disease burden. Suicidal thoughts, reduced appetite, and cognitive difficulties may play a key role in the interconnection between late-life depression and somatic diseases. If confirmed in longitudinal studies, these bridging symptoms could constitute potential targets in the prevention of late-life depression.