Myths and Facts About Depression in the Elderly


depressed-senior-woman
Yes, age brings natural sadness, but that's not the same as depression.
(G. BADEN/ZEFA/CORBIS)
Depression is not a normal part of aging, but nearly 20% of the older population—twice the rate of younger cohorts—experiences it. Even more troubling, only half of seniors with mental health problems gets treatment of any kind, and less than 3% get treated by a mental health specialist.

By the time people are over 65, illness and personal loss have likely started to intrude in their lives. Sadness and grief are normal reactions to these situations, but sadness and grief do not equal depression.

"Older adults are fairly resilient considering the stress many of them are under," says Joel E. Streim, MD, a geriatric psychiatry specialist at the University of Pennsylvania. "Many older adults are losing companions and spouses, coping with physical disability and dependence, or moving to senior housing. And we know that relocation is one of the most stressful events in anyone's life. So when depression does occur, it is an illness that must be treated."

Depression is persistent and interferes with a person's ability to function in daily life. It robs people of their peace of mind and their enjoyment of simple pleasures; makes them feel worthless, unlovable, and irritable; and can contribute to early death.


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Last Updated: April 14, 2008

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