Depression Not a Normal Part of Aging

Depression is not a natural part of growing old. Instead, it’s a medical condition that should be treated aggressively.

Depression in older adults, or in anyone, is a serious illness. Some groups are at higher risk, but the average older person is not depressed any more than a young person. Depression affects about 7 million out of the 39 million adults older than 65 in the U.S. Non-Hispanic white men older than 85 have the highest rates of suicide. Many of these men visited their healthcare provider within the last month. Factors that may add to older adults’ risk for depression is losing control over changes related to the aging process and losing people whom they love.

Missed Diagnosis

Depression is often not diagnosed because of stereotypes that family, caregivers, or even healthcare providers have that older adults are depressed in general. Older adults may mask their depression by complaining about a physical problem. This makes it harder to diagnose.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these are typical signs of depression:

  • Sleep problems. This includes too little, too much, or rising earlier than desired.
  • Decreased pleasure and interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Decreased energy or concentration
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Self-destructive and suicidal behavior

Older adults are more likely to die by suicide. Of every 100,000 people ages 75 and older, 16.3 died by suicide. This figure is higher than the national average of 11.3 suicides per 100,000 in the general population.

Depression often happens at the same time as another serious illness, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.

Lingering Symptoms

Healthcare providers look for symptoms of depression that continue for weeks at a time. If you have symptoms, your provider will also do a physical exam and rule out other causes for the symptoms. These can include certain medicines or medical conditions. A person who is physically ill and not getting better often has an underlying depression. Medicine, psychotherapy, or a combination of both can be effective in treating depression. Mild cases of depression may be eased by psychotherapy alone. People with moderate to severe depression often need antidepressant medicine.

If you notice signs of depression in yourself, a friend, or a family member, don’t wait until it becomes severe. Talk with your healthcare provider about your own symptoms. Or talk to the person with depression. Encourage him or her to speak with a healthcare provider and seek treatment from a mental health professional.

How can AbleTo help?

AbleTo helps people overcome the stress, anxiety, and feeling of overwhelm that can lead to depression or other mental health issues. We deliver programs based on your unique circumstances and needs. All therapy and coaching sessions are available from the comfort, privacy and convenience of your own home at the time, day or night, that works best for your schedule. Through phone or video chat, we connect you with our Care Team so that you can get the support to help you feel better.