A new UK study finds that exercise is not effective in reducing the burden of depression among elderly nursing home residents.
Although exercise is a low-risk intervention that can improve mental health, researchers discovered alternative approaches are necessary to reduce the burden of depression in frail, very elderly nursing home residents.
As published in the journal The Lancet, the large randomized controlled trial sought to discover whether an intervention that combined a twice-weekly, moderately intensive exercise sessions over the course of a year and promotion of physical activity by care home staff would reduce depression.
For the study, over 1,000 residents were recruited from 78 UK care homes. Nearly half of the frail nursing home residents recruited to the study were suffering from depression.
Researchers say the intervention was well-received in the homes and popular with residents — but it had no effect on depression, or residents’ general quality of life.
Martin Underwood, M.D., professor of Primary Care Research, led the research team.
“We are disappointed that this exercise intervention had no effect on the serious problem of depression with the care home residents,” he said. “We already know that antidepressants are effective for more severely depressed patients, while preventive strategies such as increased social engagement and psychological stimulation are promising but as yet unproven.”
New approaches are clearly needed to address the major burden of depression in this most needy population, Underwood said.
Investigators were quick to point out that the study a result only apply to nursing home residents and only to depression as research has shown exercise to improve fitness and physical health in younger people and in fitter elderly people.
Researchers hope the study clears the way for future studies that combine exercise with other preventive strategies to combat depression.
The need is great as the elderly population is growing and so will the number of people living in nursing homes.
Quality of life among elders residing in long-term care facilities is a pressing concern. Researchers say the finding that nearly half of the residents in the study were depressed clearly articulates the need for innovative interventions that help elders maintain dignity, respect and happiness in their later years.
Source: The University of Warwick