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Open Access Research article

Selenium level and depressive symptoms in a rural elderly Chinese cohort

Sujuan Gao19*, Yinlong Jin2, Frederick W Unverzagt3, Chaoke Liang2, Kathleen S Hall3, Jingxiang Cao2, Feng Ma2, Jill R Murrell4, Yibin Cheng2, Ping Li5, Jianchao Bian6 and Hugh C Hendrie378

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biostatistics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA

2 Institute for Environmental Health and Related Product Safety, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China

3 Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA

4 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA

5 Sichuan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, Chengdu, China

6 Shandong Institute for Prevention and Treatment of Endemic Disease in China, Jinan, China

7 Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, IN, USA

8 Regenstrief Institute, Inc., Indianapolis, IN, USA

9 Department of Biostatistics, Indiana University School of Medicine, 410 West 10th Street, Suite 3000, Indianapolis, IN, 46202-2872, USA

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:72  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-72

Published: 3 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Selenium is considered a protective agent against free radicals through the maintenance of better enzyme activity. The few studies examining the relationship between selenium and depression have yielded inconsistent results and none of these studies considered the role of cognitive function in this context.

Methods

A cross-sectional evaluation of 1737 rural Chinese age 65 and over from two provinces in China was conducted. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Cognitive function was assessed using various cognitive instruments. Selenium measures were obtained from nail samples. Other information collected included demographic characteristics and medical history. Analysis of covariance models were used to identify factors associated with GDS score.

Results

Higher selenium levels were associated with lower GDS scores adjusting for demographic and medical conditions (p = 0.0321). However, the association between selenium and depressive symptoms was no longer significant when cognitive function score was adjusted in the model (p = 0.2143).

Conclusions

Higher selenium level was associated with lower depressive symptoms without adjusting for cognition in this cohort. However, after cognition was adjusted in the model the association between selenium and depressive symptoms was no longer significant, suggesting that selenium’s association with depressive symptoms may be primarily through its association with cognitive function.