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Prevalence and correlates of clinically significant depressive symptoms among elderly people in Sri Lanka: findings from a national survey

  • Rahul Malhotra (a1), Angelique Chan (a2) and Truls Østbye (a3)

Abstract

Background: Elderly Sri Lankans (11.2% of the nation's population) have witnessed many years of ethnic conflict, a destructive tsunami and increasing emigration of young adults. However, very little is known about the prevalence and correlates of depression among them. The present study utilizes data from a national aging survey to document the prevalence and correlates of clinically significant depressive symptoms among community-dwelling elderly Sri Lankans (aged ≥60 years).

Methods: The 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15) was administered to 1181 elderly Sri Lankans; the presence of clinically significant depressive symptoms was defined as a GDS-15 score of ≥6. Sociodemographic and health correlates of depressive symptoms were assessed using logistic regression analysis. Interactions between gender and other correlates were also assessed.

Results: The prevalence of depressive symptoms was observed to be 27.8% overall: 24.0% for men, and 30.8% for women. Certain subgroups of the elderly, i.e. those with disabilities, functional limitations, perceived income inadequacy, minorities, and elderly living alone, were significantly more likely to report depressive symptoms. There was a significant interaction between gender and ethnicity.

Conclusion: The prevalence of depressive symptoms among Sri Lankan elderly people is higher than that reported for most Asian countries. Clinicians and caregivers need to be aware of the potential presence of depressive symptoms among the elderly, especially among those with lower educational levels, functional limitations, hearing difficulty, physical disability, perceived income inadequacy, and among those who live alone, and ethnic minority males.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Rahul Malhotra, Health Services Research, Level 4, Duke–NUS Graduate Medical School, 8 College Road, Singapore169857. Phone: +65 6516 6721; Fax: +65 6534 8632. Email: rahul.malhotra@duke-nus.edu.sg; rmalhotra@post.harvard.edu.

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