Geriatric Depression

Geriatric Depression

People complain of seeing blue during depression. But it is a serious mood disorder in which an individual feels extremely dejected to the point that everything around them becomes meaningless. Someone quoted depression as “depression is being colorblind, constantly telling the individual how colorful the world is.” Person who suffer from depression have trouble handling hassles in daily life. It is a real illness. Depression can happen to people of all ages. Recently studies have indicated that old people also suffer from depression. It is clinically termed as Geriatric Depression. Geriatric depression is clinically defined as mental and emotional disorder affecting older adults. However, it is not due to aging. Most common causes for depression in older adults is important life changing events such as death of the partner, work status changing into retirement or facing serious illnesses which further results in becoming anxious, uneasy. Some find emotional balance while others do not and may develop depression. Symptoms of depression in older adults are different from those of depression in younger people. Old people often feel tired, have trouble sleeping, grumpy and irritated. In addition to this, confusion and attention problems are also present due to depression which are mostly confused with Alzheimer’s disease. Social, biological and psychological factors together contribute to the manifestation of depression in older people.

Some notable factors identified by research scholars that contribute to depression in older adults are as follows.

• Financial troubles

• Major illness like heart disease

• Limited mobility

• Moving from work to retirement

• Death of partner

• Isolation

• Facing death

Older adults suffer from subsyndromal depression. In the literal terms subsyndromal means person exhibiting symptoms that are similar but at the same time not severe enough to be diagnosed as clinically recognized syndrome. Thus, subsyndromal depression is characterized with the presence of two or more weeks that causes social dysfunction, such as isolation, withdrawal but don’t meet the full criteria of major depression disorder. Though it can be dangerous if left untreated as it is considered as the risk factor for development of major depressive disorder. Another form of depression suffered by older adults are vascular depression. It is defined as the depression which occurs due to changes in brain and body as a person grows older. Those with vascular depression may also be at the risk of heart diseases and other vascular illness. Researches have indicated that there exists a link between the onset of late life depression and Alzheimer’s disease. According to American psychiatric association, mortality rate of both men and women who are facing depression and isolation is high than those who are living satisfactory lives. Depression also has harmful effects on the health of older adults in many other ways. It can impact one’s eating habits severely which leads to obesity or significant loss of appetite and low energy levels. At times, resulting in a condition called Geriatric Anorexia. Rate of insomnia and memory loss is higher in older adults owing to depression. Also, older adults will take long time to react than normal reaction time in situation such as cooking hazards, driving.

In a community based mental health studies, it has been found that geriatric depression in the world varies from 10% to 20% depending on cultural situations. According to WHO {World Health Organization}, in India, the prevalence of geriatric depression estimates varies from 13% to 25%. National Mental Health Institute considers depression in people above 65 as major public health problem in India. Very few studies have been carried out in India to address the issue. A cross- sectional study was carried out in the rural area of Tamil Nadu to assess the prevalence of geriatric depression. In the study, it was found that around 37.8% people had mild depression and 21% were severely depressed. Education, financial problem, chronic ailments, smoking etc. were linked to depression. Another cross-sectional study was conducted on a sample of 800 people on elder denizens of Himachal Pradesh in which results showed that 9.5% individuals were suffering from severe depression. Factors contributing to depression were similar as mentioned in earlier study. It has been estimated that 97% of medical students are not trained to handle geriatric depression. In addition to all this, Geropsychology or Geriatric psychology; the branch of psychology that seeks to address mental health concerns of older adults has not gained attention to help the individuals in their golden years.

As person grows older, body becomes weak and many other illnesses like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure manifests in the body. Depression sets in owing to these physical illnesses which makes the condition worse. Physical illness sets a stage for other psychological illness. As well as medication taken to cure physical illness may cause side effects such as depression. APA has also found that treatment for depression which occurred due to cardiovascular disease is difficult in older adults.

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