Most research on the association between restless legs syndrome (RLS) and depression has involved cross-sectional data. The objective of the present study was to evaluate this issue prospectively among Nurses' Health Study participants. A total of 56,399 women (mean age 68 years) who were free of depression symptoms at baseline (2002) were followed until 2008. Physician-diagnosed RLS was self-reported. During 300,155 person-years of follow-up, the authors identified 1,268 incident cases of clinical depression (regular use of antidepressant medication and physician-diagnosed depression). Women with RLS at baseline were more likely to develop clinical depression (multivariate-adjusted relative risk (RR) 1.5, 95 confidence interval (CI): 1.1, 2.1; P 0.02) than those without RLS. The presence of RLS at baseline was also associated with higher scores on the 10-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CESD-10) and the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15) thereafter. Multivariable-adjusted mean differences were 1.00 (standard error, 0.12) for CESD-10 score and 0.47 (standard error, 0.07) for GDS-15 score between women with RLS and those without RLS (P < 0.0001). In conclusion, women with physician-diagnosed RLS had an increased risk of developing clinical depression and clinically relevant depression symptoms. Further prospective studies using refined approaches to ascertainment of RLS and depression are warranted.
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