Depression in Older Americans

Depression affects older Americans at higher rates than their younger counterparts.

Many of the causes of depression in the elderly mirror the causes of depression among younger segments of the population. Stress, for example, is a major cause of depression among people of all ages, and physical contributors to depression, such as genes and brain chemistry, are in place through all stages of life.

What seems to place the elderly at particular risk of depression are the changing circumstances that can accompany advanced age. Health problems or uncertainties associated with aging can lead to depression. Lingering pain can lead to depression. Retirement can cause depression in people who identified closely with their jobs. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, or bereavement—common to people who are separated from family members, or who have lost friends or spouses—often lead to depression among elderly people.

Even prescription drugs are known to cause depression in some cases.

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The result?

Depression can affect nearly every aspect of a senior’s life. Energy level, ability to sleep, appetite, family or social relationships, and even general physical health can suffer as a result of depression.

Many people assume it is normal for depression to accompany advanced age, but the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) advises: “Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is NOT a normal part of aging.”

The NIMH recommends medical intervention when seniors suffer ill effects of depression. Often, a physical examination or doctor consultation can help determine why someone feels depressed. Doctors can recommend tests or counseling, and often minor interventions of this sort are all it takes to keep depression in check.

Financial uncertainties are another proven cause of depression among some seniors. Tools such as Medicare supplement plans, which are designed to help seniors stay within their budgets, are proven stress reducers—and measures like downsizing the home or relying more on public transportation can help reduce financial stress.

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Helpguide.org offers some great suggestions to reduce the risk and ill-effects of depression, and some of those suggestions—such as volunteering, picking up new skills, and taking the time every so often for a good laugh—may be all it takes to keep depression away in many cases.

What is the best way to battle or prevent depression? Leave a comment below!

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