Depression in Later Life

By Gregory A. Hinrichsen, Ph.D.

Dept. of Geriatrics, Icahn School of Medicine

About 15% of older adults have symptoms of depression and 3% have a serious problem with depression (what mental health professionals call a “major depression.”)  Symptoms of depression can include feeling sad/down-in-the dumps/”blue,” not being as interested in things as before, having to push oneself to get things done, feeling discouraged and self-critical, “seeing the glass half full,” problems with concentration and memory concerns, and other symptoms.  Sometimes people with “major depression” have sleep and appetite changes and even thoughts that life is not worth living.  Fortunately there are effective treatments for depression.  These include psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.  Most older adults prefer psychotherapy for the treatment of depression.  Studies show that 70% of older adults treated for depression show meaningful improvement in their symptoms.  Some of the challenges of later life increase risk for depression.  For example:  Medical problems, caring for a family member with medical problems or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, conflict with a family member or friend, death of a spouse/partner or other important person, and feeling isolated and lonely.  If you wonder if you’re depressed, talk with your doctor, other health care provider, or social worker.  They might ask you a series of questions to see if it makes sense to get some help for depression.  Remember:  Depression can improve for most people and is not usually part of getting older.

Through a UJA funded grant, a Mount Sinai Beth Israel Geriatrician and Geriatric psychologist will be working with PSPS on issues related to memory and aging.

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