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Depression in the Elderly: The Unique Features Related to Diagnosis and Treatment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2014

Katherine Shear
Affiliation:
Dr. Shear is professor of Psychiatry at the, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Panic, Anxiety, and Traumatic Grief program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, both in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Steven P. Roose
Affiliation:
Dr. Roose is professor of clinical psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at, Columbia University in New York City
Eric J. Lenze
Affiliation:
Dr. Lenze is assistant professor of psychiatry at the, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, in Pennsylvania
George S. Alexopoulos
Affiliation:
Dr. Alexopoulos is professor of psychiatry at, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and director of Weill-Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry in White Plains, New York

Abstract

Depression affects 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans ≥65 years of age. While depression usually begins earlier in life and recurs periodically, it can present for the first time in people 80–90 years of age as well. Depression throughout the lifespan has a genetic/biological component but is also very much affected by social environmental factors. As people age, demographic factors, social support, and negative life events remain important to overall mental health, while physical illness and disability begin to take on a much more prominent role. Depression in the elderly is associated with impairment, dependency, disability, and significant distress for the individual and their family. This population is likely to present with concomitant cognitive dysfunction and medical illness, which can complicate the identification and treatment of psychiatric conditions. Bereavement is almost universal in late life and is sometimes a deterrent to appropriate diagnosis and treatment of depression. Physical frailty and diminishing social resources further complicate the treatment of depression in the elderly. Elderly individuals respond well to standard pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy treatments for depression. However, due to the high rate of relapse of depression in this population, continuous treatment is often warranted. This monograph will review depression in the elderly in the context of social disruptions, such as bereavement, caregiver strain, interpersonal conflict, role transitions, and social isolation; late-onset vascular depression and cognitive impairment; and physical illness including disability.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2005

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