Depression in Older Adults

Facts about Geriatric Depression

Man deep in thoughtGeriatric depression is widespread. At least 16% of patients receiving care in a primary care setting and a higher percentage in hospitals and nursing homes exhibit depression. At least 15-20% of the elderly in the general population may experience depression. This condition is a complex problem in the elderly. It is particularly difficult to diagnose because many elders also suffer from medical illnesses, dementia syndromes, and other complicating conditions. Arriving at an accurate diagnosis requires that clinicians differentiate between such problems as dementia, stroke, and other types of brain injuries and illnesses.

Depression in older adults can be disabling, contributing to problems with activities of daily living and thus increasing their dependence on others and the health care system. Some of the consequences of  depression in later life are increased health costs, patient and caregiver distress, amplified disabilities, and increased mortality related to medical illness and suicide.

The elderly are more at risk for depression and suicide due to the losses they experience, including death of a spouse, death of friends, retirement, and medical illness and disability. With an increasingly older population, this group requires closer Smiling geriatric gentlemanexamination and understanding of the mechanisms by which depression is manifested and treated. The Geriatric Program at the University of Louisville Depression Center is committed to providing improved diagnosis and treatment for older adults with mood disorders.

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Adapted with permission from the University of Michigan Depression Center Web site.