Home > Depression in Older Adults
Depression is an illness that causes you to feel sad
and hopeless much of the time. It is different from normal feelings of sadness,
grief, or low energy.
Some people think that depression is normal
with age. But it's not. Older adults may go through major life changes or
challenges that trigger depression. Such things as losing a spouse, living with
a long-term health problem, or leaving a home you've lived in for many years
are more common among older adults than others.
Like others who
experience a life change, older adults may feel sad and may grieve and recover,
or they may develop depression.
Some older adults are more likely
to be depressed than others. Those who are more likely include:
older adults, untreated depression can last for years. It can lead to or make
worse other problems in physical and mental health and in relationships with
others. It also makes suicide more likely. Older Americans have the highest
suicide rate of any age group, and depression is often linked to the suicide.
Older men have the highest rate of suicide of any group.
can help depression and help you enjoy your life more. It also makes suicide
less likely and may help older adults deal better with long-term health
symptoms of depression, such as sadness and loss of
interest, occur in older adults just as they do in younger adults. But older
adults also may:
Depression often is
missed in older adults.
If your doctor thinks you are depressed, he or she will ask
you questions about your health and feelings. This is called a
mental health assessment. Your doctor also may:
If you think you have depression,
read this information or
take this short quiz to check your symptoms.
younger adults, depression in older adults is treated with medicine,
counseling, therapy, or a combination. Treatment usually works, and treatment
for depression also may help other medical problems that older adults have.
Older adults may benefit from early, continuing, and long-term treatment.
Older adults may have special concerns when using medicine.
Many older adults don't take all the medicines they need for
depression. A caregiver or family member may need to help the person remember
to take the medicines.
Depression often occurs with
dementia, which is a loss of mental skills that
affects daily life. Medicines for depression may help older adults with
adults can be aware of how they are changing as they age and keep a healthy
attitude. Remember that getting older is a natural part of life. If you take
good care of your body and learn positive ways to deal with stress, you can
slow down or even prevent problems that often come with getting older.
One of the best things you can do for your health and to prevent
depression is to be active. Several studies suggest that walking with others
and doing other forms of exercise reduce symptoms in older adults.1 It may help prevent depression and help prevent it from
coming back (relapse).2, 3
Your mental and emotional health also are important. Stay in
touch with friends, family, and the community. If you remain close to others,
you are more likely to feel better. Protect or improve your memory and mental
sharpness by keeping your brain active through learning, doing crossword
puzzles, or playing cards or strategy games.
Many people look
back at their lives as they get older. You may feel you have lived a meaningful
and good life. On the other hand, you may struggle with this and wonder if you
made the most out of your life.
If you are not happy about how
you've lived your life, think about talking to a friend, doctor, or counselor
For more information on aging and its changes, see the
Unützer J. (2007). Late-life depression.
New England Journal of Medicine, 357 (22):
Wiles NJ, et al. (2007). Physical activity and common
mental disorders: Results from the Caerphilly study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 165(8): 946–954.
Barbui C, et al. (2007). Depression in adults (drug
and other physical treatments), search date April 2006. Online version of
January 12, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
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