Depression in Seniors Often Ignored

Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65 and older, but only 10% receive treatment

Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65 and older, but only 10% receive treatment

Doctors say the typical image of the moaning old bag could be hindering attempts to deal with one of the most common ailments of old age, depression.

The elderly are the highest risk group for suicide, while health experts warn of the impact of mental illness on physical well-being.

Millions of elderly people suffer from depression - it's estimated twice the number who have dementia - yet it mostly goes undetected and untreated.

Millions of elderly suffer from depression. Very few elderly recieve treatment for depression.Part of the reason is ageism: people, including doctors and old people themselves, expect the elderly to feel down and do not consider this as a treatable illness.

Other likely reasons are that the elderly do not like to bother their doctors or that they fear the stigma of mental illness or that admitting a problem could lead to them losing their independence.

Assessment of Depression in Seniors

A simple questionnaire assessing depression in elderly people could tackle the problem and improve mental health and its effects on physical well-being.

The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) comes in a short (15 questions) and long (30 questions) form. It contains questions on physical, mental and social well-being. The GDS relies more on people's perceptions of their own well-being.

Answers to the questions may prompt further, more detailed, questions or may require a trip to the family doctor.

Complete the short form or long form and share the results with your doctor.

The National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or for a crisis center in your area, go here.

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APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2008, December 2). Depression in Seniors Often Ignored, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 27 from

Last Updated: August 21, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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