How frequently does depression occur in seniors?

In a hundred depressed seniors, about 70% are women and 30% are men. According to the DSM-IV criteria, 2% have a major depression, which is a very deep depression. About 10 to 15% of the seniors suffer from a minor depression. In nursing homes, these statistics are even worse. There one will see a major or serious depression in around 17% of seniors, and about 38% of the seniors in such an institution suffer from a minor or light depression. The numbers are thus dramatic.

What consequences and risks do depressed seniors face?

Except for the well-known risk of suicide, we see a heightened death rate due to a lowered immune system. For example: the risk of a heart attack is about 5 times higher for a depressed senior than it is for a senior without depression. Furthermore, results of depression in seniors include, among other things, many bodily complaints.

How do you recognize depression in seniors?

One can consider depression if at least 5 of the symptoms below are present for at least 14 days:

  • depressed mood during a large part of the day
  • decreased interest and enjoyment in normal, daily activities
  • change in appetite or weight
  • psychological or motor agitation or slow-down
  • fatigue
  • loss of energy
  • feelings of guilt, blaming oneself
  • feeling worthless
  • concentration issues
  • finding it difficult to think
  • death wish or lots of thought about death.

Pseudo-dementia: Dementia or depression?

An important question when you think your father, mother, grandfather, or grandfather is starting to suffer from dementia, is to check if depression is not at play. This is important, because in some seniors a depression could showcase itself with dementia symptoms. This means that a dementia is not present, but that something called a "pseudo-dementia" is at play. And in those cases, the so-called dementia disappears by treating the depression.

How do you heal depression in seniors?

For those depressed seniors with access to the internet, who are able to handle a computer, the online self-help program '' is a good solution because they can follow treatment from home in the form of self-help, without having to go somewhere which is especially beneficial for those who have mobility issues. Alternatively, a short solution focused cognitive therapy or behavioral therapy can be very useful. Sometimes, antidepressant medication is needed, which is prescribed by your doctor or by a psychiatrist.

Self-test: How do you test depression in seniors?

We developed a simple self-test with 21 short questions. After answering these questions, you get to see your scores on depression, anxiety, and stress. Feel free to take this self-test for depression, and print your results to discuss them with your doctor.