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Senior Health


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Welcome to the Senior Health Section of RetirementCommunity.com. This easy-to-use website features health and wellness information for older adults from the National Institutes of Health.

 

Depression

About Depression

Photo of a man who looks sad.Everyone feels blue or sad now and then, but these feelings don't usually last long and pass within a couple of days. When a person has depression, it interferes with daily life and normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with depression and those who care about him or her. Doctors call this condition "depressive disorder," or "clinical depression."

Photo of a man driving a car.Important life changes that happen as we get older may cause feelings of uneasiness, stress, and sadness. For instance, the death of a loved one, moving from work into retirement, or dealing with a serious illness can leave people feeling sad or anxious. After a period of adjustment, many older adults can regain their emotional balance, but others do not and may develop depression.

Photo of a woman sitting down.Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is NOT a normal part of aging. In fact, studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more physical ailments. However, when older adults do suffer from depression, it may be overlooked because they may be less willing to talk about feelings of sadness or grief, and doctors may be less likely to suspect or spot it.

Of the 35 million Americans age 65 and older, about 2 million suffer from full-blown depression. Another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness. If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.

It is widely believed that suicide more often affects young people, but older adults are affected by suicide, too. Of the roughly 30,000 suicide deaths in the United States in 2004, adults age 65 and older accounted for about 16 percent of them. In fact, non-Hispanic white men age 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the United States.

There are several types of depression. The most common types are major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder.

Major depressive disorder, also called major depression or clinical depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy activities he or she once liked. Major depression prevents a person from functioning normally. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person's life.

Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, is a less severe but more long-lasting form of depression. Dysthymia is characterized by symptoms lasting two years or longer that keep a person from functioning normally or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetime.

Common among older adults is "subsyndromal depression" -- less severe but clear symptoms of depression that fall short of being major depression or dysthymia. Having subsyndromal depression may increase a person's risk of developing major depression.

Quiz

1. Depression is

A. just feeling sad.
B. just feeling blue.
C. a serious illness that can interfere with daily life.

C is the correct answer. Depression is a serious illness that can interfere with daily life. Depression interferes with normal functioning and can cause pain for you and for those who care about you.

2. Depression is

A. a normal part of aging.
B. not a normal part of aging.
C. uncommon among older adults.

B is the correct answer. Depression is not a normal part of aging, but it is common among older adults. Doctors may overlook the signs of depression, however, because older people may be unwilling to discuss their feelings.

3. Of the 35 million Americans age 65 and older,

A. 2 million suffer from full-blown depression.
B. 12 million suffer from full-blown depression.
C. 22 million suffer from full-blown depression.

A is the correct answer. Two million older adults suffer from full-blown depression. Another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness.

4. Dysthymia is

A. short-term depression.
B. long-term, less severe depression.
C. depression that last only a day or so.

B is the correct answer. Dysthymia is depression That is less severe but long term. Dysthymia is characterized by symptoms lasting two years or longer that keep a person from functioning normally or feeling well.



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