Seniors and Depression

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With a shocking 7 million cases in adults 65 and older, depression is a main mental issue that is constantly overlooked and left untreated. Depression can be brought on by a variety of life events: health issues, reduced social interaction or the death of a loved one.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that depression is frequently seen as a “normal” part of aging and is a natural reaction to common challenges of growing older. A survey by Mental Health America of adults aged 65 and older found that only 38% of seniors believe that depression is a health problem. 58% of seniors believe it is normal to become depressed in old age. This results in the majority of seniors not receiving treatment for their condition.

One of the main links to depression is an increased risk for suicide. In the US, the highest suicide rate is among adults aged 75 and older according to a study by Medical News Today.

Risk factors for later-life depression

As mentioned earlier, there are many factors that can lead to senior depression. Widowhood, which is most common in older age, is a leading factor. Also, health problems that are more common in older age such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer and arthritis can lead to depression.

Life events, like retirement, can lead to the feeling of uselessness and can result in a difficulty of adapting. The loss of friendships and visible self-worth can take a large toll on one’s life as well.

Medical News Today recently reported a study that found that older adults who rarely see their friends and family are almost twice as likely to develop depression. The lack of social contact can be a major risk factor for depression among seniors.

Depression has also been found to be hereditary and linked to certain medications, such as drugs to treat hypertension.

How to Spot the Signs

        • Ongoing feelings of sorrow, uselessness or negativity
        • Excessive sleeping or insomnia
        • Loss of interest or pleasure in once enjoyable activities
        • Social withdrawal
        • Over or under eating
        • Aches and pains that continue on after treatment
        • Irritability and restlessness
        • Thoughts of death and suicide

The reason depression is often overlooked is that many of these signs can resemble side effects from either medication or attributed to a coexisting condition or risk factor.

Simple steps to reduce the risks of later life depression

There is no quick fix to prevent or treat depression, but there are steps that can lower the risks.

Preparing yourself for any major inevitable change is essential. Engaging in face to face contact can also help lower the risk. Whether this be with friends and family or means joining a senior group, you need to immerse yourself in face to face contact.

A healthy diet is good for any person, but can also help reduce the risks of becoming depressed in old age, as well as physical activity. Our previous blog on Better Balance Techniques outlines some simple at home activities to get your body working.

Depression doesn’t need to be part of your life

Yes, aging is inevitable, but depression is not. With early recognition, understanding and treatment, seniors can avoid the emotional and physical implications of depression.

For more information on later life depression please read the full article from Medical News Today.