Depression in Older Adults

Dr. Sarah Yarry, licensed clinical psychologist specializing in gerontology, reports: “Often in older adults, when they’re depressed, you don’t see high levels of crying and sadness you might see in a younger adult; you see it more often as withdrawal – apathy, hopelessness, loss of appetite and interest.” Depression is correlated with a higher risk of dying early from certain illnesses and is a major factor in suicides. Physical symptoms are spelled out both as a result or a significant contribution to depression.

Depression affects memory, focus, attentiveness and even speech and movement. One study found that more than half of participants suffering from late-life depression had significant problems with processing information such as decision making and reasoning. There is a connection between pain and depression, especially if the pain is chronic, with back aches and joint pain being commonly reported signs. Older adults suffering from depression exhibit melancholy and grouchiness along with increased anger/hostility. Additional feelings indicating depression are increased fear, anxiety, guilt and loss of hope.

Depression may exacerbate headaches but headaches can contribute to depression with migraines being especially correlative. One study showed that in migraine patients age 50-plus, nearly half showed mild to moderate depressive symptoms. Heart disease and depression  go hand in hand. Depressed people tend to show more signs of coronary illness and studies support the fact that people suffering from coronary illness are more likely to be depressed. Depressed heart failure patients are four times as likely to die at a younger than average age. It is suggested that part of this may be chemical and part is due to a lack of motivation to take care of themselves. So chest pain, like angina, can be a good indicator of depression.

Depressed older adults may lose weight by slowing their eating but some may go the other direction and gain weight. Aging adults internalize psychological issues with depression having a serious effect on the digestive system, through nausea, constipation  and other gastrointestinal issues. To provide help for suspected depression in an older adult, suggest a family doctor for an evaluation and/or a geriatric psychologist specializing in depression issues. For details,  go to:


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