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Low-dose aspirin and depression

Jul 6, 2021

ASPREE-D sub-study finds daily aspirin not protective against late-life depression


PRESS RELEASE: June 4, 2020

Taking low-dose aspirin daily does not prevent depression in healthy older adults, according to new findings from researchers from the ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) Clinical Trial and the Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT).

The results come from the ASPREE-Depression study (ASPREE-D), a sub-study of the ASPREE Clinical Trial, published in the Journal JAMA Psychiatry today.

Lead author and Director of the Institute, Professor Michael Berk, said ASPREE-D was the first detailed investigation into the preventive effects of low-dose aspirin on late-life depression.

“Worldwide, an estimated 10-15% of people aged between 70 – 85 years will experience depression at some point in time and there are no evidence based medicines that can prevent depression, highlighting the importance of this study,” said Professor Berk.

Depression is associated with increased inflammation and it was thought that aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent the onset and severity of depressive symptoms.

Man with glasses is dressed in black jacket and blue shirt
Above: Lead author Prof Michael Berk, School of Medicine Area: Faculty of Health Campus: Barwon Health, Australia

The ASPREE trial involved 19,114 healthy adults in Australia and the United States, mostly aged 70 years and older. Participants were randomly assigned daily 100 mg aspirin or a matched placebo, and underwent a range of health measures, including mood and quality of life, at study entry then annually for an average 4.7 years.

By the end of the ASPREE-D study, the rates of depression, the severity of depressive symptoms, quality of life and use of anti-depressants were similar for those in the aspirin group and those in the placebo group.

The authors point out that all study participants were healthy when the study began and that findings from this paper may not apply to all older adults or to younger people.

Professor Berk said that the mental and physical health of ASPREE participants continues to be tracked in the follow-up ASPREE-XT study.

“Symptoms of depression are often incorrectly attributed to ageing and often remain undetected and untreated, resulting in a loss of quality of life. It is important that we continue to search for ways to prevent and treat the disease in older adults,” said Professor Berk.

People are advised to seek individual health advice from their doctor before starting or stopping daily low-dose aspirin.


The ASPREE-D study is a collaboration between Alfred Deakin Professor of Psychiatry, Michael Berk, Director of the Institute of Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT), Deakin University, and Professor Anne Murray, ASPREE Clinical Trial, the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research in the USA and Professor John McNeil, ASPREE Clinical Trial, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University in Australia.  A full list of collaborators is here.


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