Depression is an illness that causes you to feel sad
and hopeless much of the time. It is different from normal feelings of sadness,
grief, or low energy.
Some people think that depression is normal
with age. But it's not. Older adults may go through major life changes or
challenges that trigger depression. Such things as losing a spouse, living with
a long-term health problem, or leaving a home you've lived in for many years
are more common among older adults than others.
Like others who
experience a life change, older adults may feel sad and may grieve and recover,
or they may develop depression.
Some older adults are more likely
to be depressed than others. Those who are more likely include:
Those who are not
married or who have lost their partners.
Those who don't have
friends or family who can support them.
older adults, untreated depression can last for years. It can lead to or make
worse other problems in physical and mental health and in relationships with
others. It also makes suicide more likely. Older Americans have the highest
suicide rate of any age group, and depression is often linked to the suicide.
Older men have the highest rate of suicide of any group.
can help depression and help you enjoy your life more. It also makes suicide
less likely and may help older adults deal better with long-term health
Do older adults have different symptoms than others who have depression?
symptoms of depression, such as sadness and loss of
interest, occur in older adults just as they do in younger adults. But older
adults also may:
Feel confused or forgetful.
seeing friends and doing things.
Have a hard time
Not feel like eating.
How is depression diagnosed?
Depression often is
missed in older adults.
People may think that sadness or depression is
part of aging, so they don't take it seriously.
The symptoms of
depression in older adults are sometimes like symptoms of other diseases, so
depression may not be recognized. For example, a family member or doctor could
mistake forgetting things as a symptom of
dementia rather than depression. But people can have
Many older adults take many medicines, and certain medicines
may cause depression.
Older adults may not seek help for depression,
because they sometimes consider it a character flaw or weakness. They may blame
themselves for the problem or be too embarrassed to seek help. They may not
admit to feeling sad.
The cost of doctor visits and treatment can
prevent older adults from seeking help for depression.
If your doctor thinks you are depressed, he or she will ask
you questions about your health and feelings. This is called a
mental health assessment. Your doctor also may:
younger adults, depression in older adults is treated with medicine,
counseling, therapy, or a combination. Treatment usually works, and treatment
for depression also may help other medical problems that older adults have.
Older adults may benefit from early, continuing, and long-term treatment.
Older adults may have special concerns when using medicine.
Some of the medicines used for depression may
not be good choices because they may interact with medicine being taken for
other health problems.
The side effects of medicines may be more
Some antidepressants may take longer to start working in
older adults than they do in younger adults.
Older adults may need
medicine for a longer amount of time than younger adults.
Many older adults don't take all the medicines they need for
depression. A caregiver or family member may need to help the person remember
to take the medicines.
Depression often occurs with
dementia, which is a loss of mental skills that
affects daily life. Medicines for depression may help older adults with
What can an older adult do about depression?
adults can be aware of how they are changing as they age and keep a healthy
attitude. Remember that getting older is a natural part of life. If you take
good care of your body and learn positive ways to deal with stress, you can
slow down or even prevent problems that often come with getting older.
One of the best things you can do for your health and to prevent
depression is to be active. Several studies suggest that walking with others
and doing other forms of exercise reduce symptoms in older adults.1 It may help prevent depression and help prevent it from
coming back (relapse).2, 3
Your mental and emotional health also are important. Stay in
touch with friends, family, and the community. If you remain close to others,
you are more likely to feel better. Protect or improve your memory and mental
sharpness by keeping your brain active through learning, doing crossword
puzzles, or playing cards or strategy games.
Many people look
back at their lives as they get older. You may feel you have lived a meaningful
and good life. On the other hand, you may struggle with this and wonder if you
made the most out of your life.
If you are not happy about how
you've lived your life, think about talking to a friend, doctor, or counselor
For more information on aging and its changes, see the
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.