As the population ages, the number
of older people at risk for depression also increases. The estimate for
the older population affected by symptoms of depression at 10 %, with 1-2
% experiencing a major depression. These numbers increase for those in
skilled nursing facilities or those suffering from physical illnesses are
the ones most likely to experience depression. Here the numbers are as
high as 20 - 35 %.
Under the age of 65, women are more affected than men. Over 65 the numbers increase in men, so that men and women are equally affected.
Depression is as much of an illness as heart disease and arthritis, it is not an expected part of growing older. Since depression can manifest in many different forms, including a variety of different physical complaints, it may be more difficult to determine if an older person is depressed, or just experiencing signs of arthritis or osteoporosis. Many depressed older people feel that feeling miserable is a normal part of growing older, or due to their physical illnesses, so do not recognize that they might be experiencing depression.
Since depression in the elderly
can manifest as constant feelings of tiredness or pains that just don't
go away, it can be difficult to tell whether the symptoms are from depression
or a physical ailment. This is why it is important to seek professional
help, from your physician, so that he/she can help to determine the cause.
If you or anyone you know seems
to be experiencing depression, look at the General
Information consider taking one of the quizzes on the other depression
pages, Self Assessment Quiz
or Wakefield Questionnaire
and contact your health care provider, counselor, clergy member or social
worker and get the help you need.
Depression is usually due to
a combination of factors and life stressors rather than an single factor.
Sometimes it is possible to point to a specific life event that can trigger
an episode of depression, e.g. the death of a spouse, or of friends. Other
problems which contribute to depression include loneliness, poor health
and financial problems.
As a person ages they face new challenges and losses (in some cases impairments), loss of friends, loss of spouse, loss (through retirement) of job, loss of mobility (physical or ability to drive), loss of hearing, loss of vision, loss of sexual function, or loss of financial stability.
In the older population, symptoms of depression can be masked by other underlying medical problems, or can also be a symptom of underlying depression. It may be very difficult to distinguish between depression and dementia, and people may be suffering from depression and dementia at the same time. Distinguishing between depression and underlying medical problems is part of the reason for the need to seek medical evaluation. The medical problems that can mimic depression include:
If you have questions that someone you know might be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's disease, link to Signs of Alzheimer's Disease
The Samaritans is a UK charity, founded in 1953, which exists to provide confidential emotional support to any person, who is suicidal or despairing; and to increase public awareness of issues around suicide and depression. This service is provided 24 hours every day by trained volunteers, and relies upon public donations.