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Depression is harder to overcome in old age

Depression is harder to overcome in old age
20th July 2018

Getting over a major depressive order becomes harder with age, according to a new study by researchers at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. They found that elderly people are more likely to have severe and persistent symptoms than their younger counterparts.

Data was collected and analysed relating to 1,042 adults between the ages of 18 and 88 who had all suffered with a major depressive order. Symptoms were compared at the beginning of the study and again two years later to see how the depression developed.

Those aged 70 and above were found to be two or three times as likely to still be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder two years later, when compared to people aged between 18 and 29. It was also discovered that their symptoms had remained consistent throughout the intervening time period.

Among the theories as to why elderly people feel depression more severely and take longer to go into remission is that they are more likely to experience one or more of the risk factors. These include chronic illness, unhealthy lifestyles and loneliness.

Brenda Penninx, senior author of the study, said that even after these factors were taken into account, depression had a disproportionately high impact on the elderly. This could be due to the loss of plasticity in the brains of older people, making it harder for them to rebound.

She went on to say: “Obviously preventing is better than treating. Everything that works (e.g. healthy lifestyle, social activities, taking care of one’s health as much as possible) in preventing depression is good. In addition, if a depression occurs, seeking adequate treatment is important because there is - especially among older adults - quite some under-recognition of depression.”

The study team noted in The Lancet Psychiatry that one in five people will have depression at least once in their lives. If it comes later in life then it can be harder to overcome and relatives should look out for the warning signs and do what they can to ensure their family member receives help and support.