Depression in Older People – Risk Factors and Tips for Staying Well

Originally published in the 2011 Irish Pensioner's Handbook - written by Joanne Flood- Image by palegoldenrodDepression is the ...
Depression is the single most common disorder in those over 65, affecting up to 20 per cent. Depression in older people has an incidence rate of about one per cent (international data) and a prevalence rate of about 13 – 23 per cent, depending on the severity of the case (Keogh and Roche 1996).
According to a more recent study carried out by Lundbeck (2010), between five and eight per cent of the population have depression at any one time, and in Ireland, this means that as many as 300,000 people are living with depression right now.
Causes and Risk Factors
1. Loneliness and Isolation
Living alone; a dwindling social circle due to deaths or relocation; decreased mobility due to illness or a loss of driving privileges.
2. Reduced sense of purpose
Feelings of purposeless or loss of identity due to retirement or physical limitations on activities.
3. Health problems
Illness and disability; chronic or severe pain; cognitive decline; damage to body image due to surgery or disease.
4. Medications
Many prescription medications can trigger or exacerbate depression.
5. Fears
Fear of death or dying; anxiety over financial problems or health issues
6. Recent bereavement
The death of friends, family members, and pets; the loss of a spouse or partner.
Clarifying the diagnosis is the first step to effective treatment, but this can be particularly difficult because elderly patients have medical co-morbidities that can contribute to cognitive and affective changes (Gagliardi 2008).
Tips for Helping Yourself to Stay Well
  • Keeping in contact with and talking to family and friends
  • Joining a local support group such as Active Age or the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA)
  • Eating a balanced diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Taking regular exercise – such as walking
  • Avoiding alcohol
Useful Links
Aware –
– Joanne Flood is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse with 10 years experience in dementia care in Acute Care settings, Liaison Psychiatry, Gerontological Nursing, Long Term Care Settings and more recently working in the community as a Dementia Nurse Specialist within Psychiatry of Old Age in North County Dublin. Joanne has completed a PG Dip in Gerontological Nursing and an MSc in Mental Health of Older People. Joanne is currently undertaking a PhD in Community Dementia Care in Dublin City University.

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