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Main article: Clinical depression

Some people have the mistaken idea that it is normal for the elderly to feel depressed. On the contrary, most older people feel satisfied with their lives. Sometimes, though, when depression develops, it may be dismissed as a normal part of aging. Depression in the elderly, undiagnosed and untreated, causes needless suffering for the family and for the individual who could otherwise live a fruitful life. When he or she does go to the doctor, the symptoms described are usually physical, for the older person is often reluctant to discuss feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities, or extremely prolonged grief after a loss.

Recognizing how depressive symptoms in older people are often missed, many health care professionals are learning to identify and treat the underlying depression. They recognize that some symptoms may be side effects of medication the older person is taking for a physical problem, or they may be caused by a co-occurring illness. If a diagnosis of depression is made, treatment with medication and/or psychotherapy will help the depressed person return to a happier, more fulfilling life. Recent research suggests that brief psychotherapy (talk therapies that help a person in day-to-day relationships or in learning to counter the distorted negative thinking that commonly accompanies depression) is effective in reducing symptoms in short-term depression in older persons who are medically ill. Psychotherapy is also useful in older patients who cannot or will not take medication. Efficacy studies show that late-life depression can be treated with psychotherapy.4

Improved recognition and treatment of depression in late life will make those years more enjoyable and fulfilling for the depressed elderly person, the family, and caretakers.NIMH

Symptoms and diagnosis of late life depressionEdit

To meet criteria for a major depressive episode, a patient must have 5 of these 9 symptoms nearly every day for at least 2 weeks.[1]

  1. Depressed or sad mood
  2. Anhedonia (loss of interest in pleasurable activities)
  3. Sleep disturbance (increased or decreased sleep)
  4. Appetite disturbance (increased or decreased appetite) typically with weight change
  5. Energy disturbance (increased or decreased energy/activity level), usually fatigue
  6. Poor memory and/or concentration
  7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  8. Psychomotor retardation or agitation (a change in mental and physical speed perceived by other people)
  9. Thoughts of wishing you were dead; suicidal ideation or suicide attempt

Depression in Older MenEdit

Men must cope with several kinds of stress as they age. If they have been the primary wage earners for their families and have identified heavily with their jobs, they may feel stress upon retirement­loss of an important role, loss of self esteem­that can lead to depression. Similarly, the loss of friends and family and the onset of other health problems can trigger depression.

Depression is not a normal part of aging.18 Depression is an illness that can be effectively treated, thereby decreasing unnecessary suffering, improving the chances for recovery from other illnesses, and prolonging productive life. However, health care professionals may miss depressive symptoms in older patients. Older adults may be reluctant to discuss feelings of sadness or grief, or loss of interest in pleasurable activities.19 They may complain primarily of physical symptoms. It may be difficult to discern a co occurring depressive disorder in patients who present with other illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms or may be treated with medications that have side effects that cause depression. If a depressive illness is diagnosed, treatment with appropriate medication and/or brief psychotherapy can help older adults manage both diseases, thus enhancing survival and quality of life.

“As you get sick, as you become drawn in more and more by depression, you lose that perspective. Events become more irritating, you get more frustrated about getting things done. You feel angrier, you feel sadder. Everything’s magnified in an abnormal way.”-Paul Gottlieb, Publisher

Identifying and treating depression in older adults is critical. There is a common misperception that suicide rates are highest among the young, but it is older white males who suffer the highest rate. Over 70 percent of older suicide victims visit their primary care physician within the month of their death; many have a depressive illness that goes undetected during these visits.20 This fact has led to research efforts to determine how to best improve physicians’ abilities to detect and treat depression in older adults.21

Approximately 80 percent of older adults with depression improve when they receive treatment with antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.22 In addition, research has shown that a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication is highly effective for reducing recurrences of depression among older adults.23 Psychotherapy alone has been shown to prolong periods of good health free from depression, and is particularly useful for older patients who cannot or will not take medication.18 Improved recognition and treatment of depression in later life will make those years more enjoyable and fulfilling for the depressed elderly person, and his family and caregivers.

Depression in older womenEdit

Main article: Late life depression - Theoretical approaches.

Main article: Late life depression - Epidemiology.

Main article: Late life depression - Risk factors.

Main article: Late life depression - Etiology.

Main article: Late life depression - Evaluation.

Main article: Late life depression - Comorbidity.

Main article: Late life depression - Treatment.

Main article: Late life depression - Prognosis.

Main article: Depression and physical illness in the elderly

See alsoEdit


  1. Richard B. Birrer, and Satahta P. Vemuri (2004). Depression in Later Life:A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Challenge. American Family Physician 69 (10): 2375–2382.


Key Texts – BooksEdit

  • Blazer, D G (2001)Depression in Late Life. Springer Publishing Company. ISBN 0826114520
  • Karel M J, Ogland-Hand S, Gatz M, Unutzer J (2002) Assessing and Treating Late-Life Depression ISBN 0465095437

Additional material – BooksEdit

Key Texts – PapersEdit

  • Beekman ATF, Geerlings SW, Deeg DJH, Smit JH,

Schoevers RS, De Beurs E, et al. The natural history of late-life depression – a 6-year prospective study in the community. [[Arch Gen Psychiatry]] 2002;59:605–11.

  • Freudenstein U, Jagger C, Arthur A, Donner-

Banzhoff, N. Treatments for late life depression in primary care – a systematic review. Fam Pract 2001;18:321–7.

  • Gallo JJ, Rabins PV. Depression without sadness: alternative presentations of depression in late life. American Family Physician, 1999; 60(3): 820 6.
  • Lebowitz BD, Pearson JL, Schneider LS, Reynolds CF, Alexopoulos GS, Bruce MI, Conwell Y, Katz IR, Meyers BS, Morrison MF, Mossey J, Niederehe G, Parmelee P. Diagnosis and treatment of depression in late life: consensus statement update. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1997; 278(14): 1186 90.
  • Little JT, Reynolds CF III, Dew MA, Frank E, Begley AE, Miller MD, Cornes C, Mazumdar S, Perel JM, Kupfer DJ. How common is resistance to treatment in recurrent, nonpsychotic geriatric depression? American Journal of Psychiatry, 1998; 155(8): 1035 8.
  • Mulsant BH, Ganguli M. Epidemiology and diagnosis of depression in late life [review]. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 1999;60(Suppl 20):9–15.
  • Reynolds CF III, Frank E, Perel JM, Imber SD, Cornes C, Miller MD, Mazumdar S, Houck PR, Dew MA, Stack JA, Pollock BG, Kupfer DJ. Nortriptyline and interpersonal psychotherapy as maintenance therapies for recurrent major depression: a randomized controlled trial in patients older than 59 years. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999; 281(1): 39 45.

Additional material - PapersEdit

  • Sarbadhikari, S. N. (ed.) (2005) Depression and Dementia:Progress in Brain Research, Clinical Applications and Future Trends. Hauppauge, Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 1-59454-114-0.

External linksEdit

NIMH[[Category:Late life depression]

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