Skip to content

    Depression Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Depression a Danger for Older Adults

    Treatment Can Improve Life Even for Ailing Elders
    By
    WebMD Health News

    Dec. 2, 2004 -- People are never too old -- or too ill -- to benefit from depression treatment. It's one of the most effective steps senior citizens can take to better their lives, regardless of their health.

    That's what researchers found after studying 1,800 older adults with depression. Participants were at least 60 years old and members of eight different U.S. health care organizations.

    Depression wasn't their only health problem. Participants had about four chronic medical illnesses, on average. Ailments included heart disease, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

    All of the conditions were serious, but depression was particularly devastating. The finding was based on measurements of physical and mental health, quality of life, and disability.

    Depression severity was tied to all four general health indicators. "As depression severity increased, quality of life and physical and mental functioning declined, while disability increased," say the researchers. They included Polly Hitchcock Noël, PhD, of South Texas Veterans Health Care System, and colleagues from California, Washington state, and North Carolina.

    The study has a practical lesson: Treat depression and life can get better, regardless of age or health status. "Depression may well be one of our most treatable chronic illnesses among elders," say the researchers.

    But depression doesn't always get the attention it deserves. It may go unrecognized or get sidelined by other health problems.

    "When faced with competing demands for treating multiple chronic illnesses, physicians may give depression less priority for treatment compared with such illnesses as diabetes or arthritis," say the researchers.

    That needs to change, say Noël and colleagues. "Improved recognition and treatment of depression has the potential to improve patients' lives in spite of other medical [conditions]," they conclude.

    The study appears in the November/December issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

    Today on WebMD

    contemplation
    Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
    jk rowling
    Famous people who've struggled with persistent sadness.
     
    depressed man sitting on hallway floor
    Learn the truth about this serious illness.
    Sad woman looking out of the window
    Tips to stay the treatment course.
     
    unhappy teen boy
    Health Check
    jk rowling
    Slideshow
     
    Pills with smiley faces
    Article
    Teen girl huddled outside house
    Article
     
    Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
    Article
    antidepressants slideshow
    Article
     
    pill bottle
    Article
    Winding path
    Article