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Depression in the Elderly

October 5, 2012

The article I chose discussed the implications of depression in the elderly. More and more elderly individuals are now being diagnosed and treated for depression, while only a little over ten years ago, it was estimated that 12-25 percent of people 65 and older were being diagnosed and treated. The article mentions that often times, depression in the elderly takes a form unique from younger individuals suffering from the mood disorder. Despite being invisible in their symptoms, elderly patients have had an increase in effort by their physicians and U.S. Preventive Task Force in screening and detecting the onset of depression. Not to mention that nursing homes are being more proactive in their approaches now. A major disadvantage of the elderly patients was that few were willing to get more than a prescription for their disorder because of stigmatization. Like their younger counterparts, medication only showed to be of limited help. The combination of ‘collaborative care’ among 1,800 participants showed the best results in that 45 percent had a reduction of at least 50 percent in ‘depressive symptoms’.

According to Ronald Kessler’s National Comorbidity Survey Replication study, the average age of onset in the fiftieth percentile of major depressive disorder is 32. That is, fifty percent of people who suffered from the disorder, had the disorder in their lifetime past the age of 32. In comparison to other disorders such as anxiety, disruptive behavior, and substance dependence and abuse, the major depressive disorder has a relatively high age that the disorder comes into affect. This could be explained by a number of variables. One being that later in life people tend to have an established family and household that can lead to tense or restricted emotions surrounding finances and personal life between spouses leading to depressive episodes. Additionally, at a much older age, in the case of this article for the elderly (65 and older), the elderly are often faced with major life transitions such as the passing of their wife or husband, financial difficulties, or physical limitations that can put the elderly individuals into a depressive state.

It would appear to make more sense that older individuals do indeed suffer from depressive disorders. But as the article stated, it has become an issue in itself discovering the individuals who do suffer from it. However, the argument that the elderly are only a product of their own environment would also seem reasonable. The elderly are put into difficult circumstances that could inevitably produce these depressive symptoms. We as a scientific community could only expect these outcomes from these elderly individuals. In turn, there is a strong possibility that many elderly are misdiagnosed and are reacting just as any other human would, such as their younger counterparts. Regardless, according to the article, it’s apparent that there is an intensified effort to begin to medicate the elderly with anti-depressants and diagnose them more frequently. The question now becomes whether it is ethical or healthy to treat depression as a simple and ‘easy to fix’ diagnoses. According to the article, in some ways it can be.

Connor Backlund



Kessler, R.C. (2004). Age of Onset Distributions. National Comorbidity Replication Survey, 54.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 5, 2012 8:36 pm

    I feel as though it’s impossible to ignore that the elderly are faced with a number of life changing events that could lead to depression. As you discussed in this post, they are faced with the death of their spouses and loved ones, having to move out of their houses and sometimes into retirement homes, and being distant from their families. But I think something that needs to be thought about more often is how to treat depression in the elderly. To me, it seems as though talk therapy and other forms of social interaction would be more beneficial than an SSRI or other form of antidepressant. Having worked in a retirement center for five years, I feel as though I have experienced dealing with depression among the elderly in person very often. What seems to bring their spirits up more than anything is developing friendships with others that are going through similar phases in their lives, visits from their family members (or simply a lot of communication with them), and the ability to talk with a profession therapist if needed.

    Kimberly Anderson

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