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- The risk of depression in the elderly increases with other illnesses and when ability to function becomes limited. Estimates of major depression in older people living in the community range from less than one percent to about five percent, but rises to 13.5 percent in those who require home healthcare and to 11.5 percent in elderly hospital patients.
- An estimated five million have subsyndromal depression, symptoms that fall short of meeting the full diagnostic criteria for a disorder.
- Depressive disorder is not a normal part of aging. Emotional experiences of sadness, grief, response to loss and temporary “blue” moods are normal. Persistent depression that interferes significantly with ability to function is not.
- Health professionals may mistakenly think that persistent depression is an acceptable response to other serious illnesses and the social and financial hardships that often accompany aging - an attitude often shared by older people themselves. This contributes to low rates of diagnosis and treatment in older adults.
- Depression can and should be treated when it occurs at the same time as other medical illnesses. Untreated depression can delay recovery or worsen the outcome of these other illnesses.
(This week's Friday Five facts are from the National Institute of Mental Health's "Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts" fact sheet. For more information about depression and other mental illnesses, visit the NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania website.)