Background: Whether depression or cardiovascular disease would have a greater effect on worsening cognitive impairment in the burgeoning older elderly population is uncertain. Which disorder causes greater cognitive impairment was investigated.Methods: A cross section of 207 cognitively impaired older elderly (≥75 years old) men was recruited from outpatient clinics in southern Taiwan between 2004 and 2008. Their medical charts were reviewed for their history of medical illnesses, and those undergoing a current major depressive episode were screened using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Four groups of men were enrolled: 33 healthy controls (HC), 101 cognitively impaired patients with cardiovascular comorbidities (CVCs), 34 patients with late-life depression (LLD), and 49 patients with LLD and cardiovascular comorbidities (LLD + CVC). Several neuropsychological tests (e.g., Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), WCST, and Trail Making Test (TMT) parts A and B) were used to assess the participants.Results: Cognitive function scores were highest in the HC group and lowest in the LLD + CVC group. There were no significant differences between the two groups with LLD comorbidity, and LLD was mostly associated with cognitive performance. LLD + CVC group members had the lowest recall memory, but their overall MMSE score was not significantly different. Moreover, this group had a higher but nonsignificantly different perseverative error than did the LLD group. Similarly, the LLD + CVC group was nonsignificantly slower at the TMT-A and TMT-B tasks than was the LLD group.Conclusions: LLD worsens neuropsychological function more than cardiovascular comorbidities do.
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