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The proportion of the global population aged 60 and over is increasing, more so in Latin America than any other region. Depression is common among elderly people and an important cause of disability worldwide.
To estimate the prevalence and correlates of late-life depression, associated disability and access to treatment in five locations in Latin America.
A one-phase cross-sectional survey of 5886 people aged 65 and over from urban and rural locations in Peru and Mexico and an urban site in Venezuela. Depression was identified according to DSM–IV and ICD–10 criteria, Geriatric Mental State–Automated Geriatric Examination for Computer Assisted Taxonomy (GMS–AGECAT) algorithm and EURO–D cut-off point. Poisson regression was used to estimate the independent associations of sociodemographic characteristics, economic circumstances and health status with ICD–10 depression.
For DSM–IV major depression overall prevalence varied between 1.3% and 2.8% by site, for ICD–10 depressive episode between 4.5% and 5.1%, for GMS–AGECAT depression between 30.0% and 35.9% and for EURO–D depression between 26.1% and 31.2%; therefore, there was a considerable prevalence of clinically significant depression beyond that identified by ICD–10 and DSM–IV diagnostic criteria. Most older people with depression had never received treatment. Limiting physical impairments and a past history of depression were the two most consistent correlates of the ICD–10 depressive episode.
The treatment gap poses a significant challenge for Latin American health systems, with their relatively weak primary care services and reliance on private specialists; local treatment trials could establish the cost-effectiveness of mental health investment in the government sector.
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