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Statistics on depression among elderly people

Written by: Petros Skapinakis, University of Ionannina, Greece

First version: 11 Nov 2003. Latest revision: 12 Jan 2009.

Question:

 What is known about depression among elderly people?

Answer:

Studies show that at least 10-25 % of all elderly people show clear symptoms of depression. 1-5 % have so-called serious depressive episodes, and 2-8 % suffer from loneliness and melancholy. Studies on residents in homes for the elderly find that 5-15 % suffer from depression. Up to 30 % of the residents have more or less pronounced symptoms of depression such as tiredness, lack of appetite and dejection. It is also known that much depression among the elderly is not diagnosed by psychiatric services.

Possible causes why depression among the elderly is not diagnosed:

  • Difficulty to recognize symptoms of depression in the elderly, since these symptoms are often not typical of depression, they are symptoms such as somatic problems like constipation, lack of appetite, pain, sleeping problems.
  • More attention to somatic illnesses (such as heart diseases) and different troubles are then first thought to be connected with such somatic illnesses.
  • A general increase in depression among the elderly.
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