Statistics on Depression and Aging

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is estimated that in any given one-year period, 9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults will suffer from a depressive illness.

Great strides have been made in the treatment and understanding of depression in children, adolescents, and adults. However, information of the frequency, causes, symptoms, and treatment of depression in older adults is not well understood. Although estimates vary, the Department of Health and Human Services states that very few older adults-less than 3 percent-report seeing mental health specialists for treatment of depression.

Estimates vary on how many older adults suffer from depression due in part to the following:

• The stigma of mental illness.
• Reluctance by many older adults to talk about personal problems.
• Misattribution of depression symptoms to “normal aging”.
• A missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.
• A different presentation of symptoms.

Warning Signs to Look For

Depressed mood, or feeling “down in the dumps”.
• Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
• Significant weight loss or weight gain.
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
• Restlessness.
• Fatigue or loss of energy.
• Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
• Difficulty concentrating, or indecisiveness.
• Recurrent thoughts of death, or recurrent suicidal thoughts.
• Frequent crying.
• Physical complaints with no identifiable cause.
• Complaints of poor memory.
• Pessimism.
• Excessive negative thoughts.
• Anxiety.

To be on the safe side, if you have three or more of the above symptoms, contact a qualified mental health professional who can do a more complete evaluation to determine whether you have clinical depression.Many older adults are reluctant to get help for their depression even though treatment is successful in over 80% of the cases. Here are some of the reasons older adults don’t get the treatment they need and deserve:

• Shame about having depression and misconceptions about what causes it.
• Not knowing how or where to get help.
• Assuming that feelings of depression are a normal part of aging.
• Lack of transportation and/or information about community resources that could help.
• Limited support from family or friends.Most older adults do not suffer from depression at any time during their lives. For those that do, the hope of successful treatment could ease the suffering of innumerable people. Learning more about the aging process and how to cope with the challenges it sometimes brings is information we can all use whether we are depressed or not.

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