Attention/Processing Speed Prospectively Predicts Social Impairment 18 Years Later in Mood Disorders

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Abstract

Cross-sectional studies suggest that cognitive deficits contribute to psychosocial impairment among individuals with mood disorders. However, studies examining whether cognition prospectively predicts psychosocial outcome are few, have used short follow-up periods, and have not demonstrated incremental validity (i.e., that cognition predicts future functioning even when controlling for baseline functioning). In a sample of 51 individuals with unipolar depression or bipolar disorder, we investigated whether attention/processing speed (APS) performance predicted social functioning 18 years later. Baseline APS predicted 18-year social functioning even after controlling for baseline social functioning and depressive symptoms, demonstrating incremental validity. Individuals with high baseline APS had stable social functioning over 18 years, whereas functioning deteriorated among those with low APS. This finding helps clarify the temporal order of cognitive and psychosocial deficits associated with mood disorders and suggests the clinical utility of cognitive measures in identifying those at risk of deterioration in social functioning.

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