Sarcopenia and depression: is there a link?

Many elderly individuals experience a natural loss of muscle mass and strength, also known as sarcopenia, as they age. In addition to a decline in physical functioning, aging also seems to impact psychological functioning, with higher rates of depression in older individuals. Several studies have begun to look at the incidence of sarcopenia and depression in this population, and are finding that it is not uncommon to see both. The big question is, do sarcopenia and depression just share common risk factors, or is there a more direct link between the two? Ke-Vin Chang and colleagues recently published a review in Age and Ageing that aimed to answer this question. Researchers evaluated at 15 observational studies primarily involving individuals over 50 years old, with women accounting for a little over half of the participants. Information compared from each of the studies included study type, participant characteristics, methods of body composition measurement, diagnostic tools for sarcopenia & depression, and relevant variables that may have affected the relationship between sarcopenia and depression.

The authors found that there is in fact a positive association between sarcopenia and depression, even when controlling for factors such as BMI, gender, age, chronic comorbidities (diabetes, cardiovascular disease), and physical performance. Meaning, that although these two conditions do share several common risk factors, there is perhaps a more direct link. It should be noted that further studies are necessary to determine an underlying cause between the sarcopenia and depression, and whether or not there is a biological component that is truly responsible.