Depression – elderly : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors


Depression is a medical illness in which a person has feelings of sadness, discouragement, and a lack of self-worth.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Depression can be caused by:

  • Changes within the family
  • Chronic pain and illness
  • Difficulty getting around
  • Frustration with memory loss
  • Loss of a spouse or close friend
  • Trouble adapting to a life change such as moving from a home to a retirement facility

Depression can also be a sign of a medical problem. It can be a reaction to the illness, or caused by the disease itself. It may be complicated by brain disorders that occur with age, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Depression is also a side effect of many drugs commonly prescribed for the elderly.

Depression in the elderly is a widespread problem that is often not diagnosed and frequently undertreated. Many older people will not admit to the signs and symptoms of depression for fear that they will be seen as weak or crazy. Some older people may be aware of their depression, but believe that nothing can be done about it.

Pictures & Images

Depression among the elderly

The elderly are at high risk for depression because they are more likely than younger people to have experienced illness, death of loved ones, impaired function and loss of independence. The cumulative effect of negative life experiences may be overwhelming to an older person.

Review Date : 8/22/2008
Reviewed By : Timothy A. Rogge, MD, private practice in Psychiatry, Kirkland, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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