Many factors may lead to depression in older people, including the fear of isolation, the loss of friends, and memory troubles. Chronic physical problems may be both a symptom and a cause of depression. Those affected and their family members should not take depression as a given.
According to the WHO, depression is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses in people over 65 years of age. While the illness is no more common in older people than in younger people, it is more difficult to detect in them – and the number of older people with depression is rising.
Depression is often concealed behind a mask of physical symptoms or anxiety-related troubles. Depressed older people often report non-specific symptoms such as loss of appetite or inexplicable gastro-intestinal complaints. They tend not to disclose that they are feeling low. It is often not even clear to them that they have the symptoms of depression and hence of an illness that requires treatment.
Many people think that a down mood is normal when you are older. That's why the illness is often not recognised and treated. However, the suicide rate of people with depression rises with increasing age, so it is particularly important to tackle it as early as possible.
Older people can also be successfully treated for depression. The aim is to alleviate the symptoms, prevent their depression from leading to suicide, improve their ability to function properly, and help them develop strategies for coping with their infirmities and limitations.
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