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PSY 180 - Psychology of Aging - Textbook


Understanding Depression in Later Life

Understanding Depression in Later Life by North Dakota State University Extension is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.

Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist, and Jane Strommen, NDSU Gerontology Specialist, explore specific strategies for managing depression or related issues in later life.

Depression is part of life for too many Americans. "The Journal of the American Psychological Association" links depressions with anywhere from 15-20 percent of older Americans.

Depression in Older Adults

Depression in Older Adults

Copyright © 2009 by Annual Reviews.


"Depression is less prevalent among older adults than among younger adults but can have serious consequences. Over half of cases represent a first onset in later life. Although suicide rates in the elderly are declining, they are still higher than in younger adults and more closely associated with depression. Depressed older adults are less likely to endorse affective symptoms and more likely to display cognitive changes, somatic symptoms, and loss of interest than are younger adults. Risk factors leading to the development of late life depression likely comprise complex interactions among genetic vulnerabilities, cognitive diathesis, age-associated neurobiological changes, and stressful events. Insomnia is an often overlooked risk factor for late life depression. We suggest that a common pathway to depression in older adults, regardless of which predisposing risks are most prominent, may be curtailment of daily activities. Accompanying self-critical thinking may exacerbate and maintain a depressed state. Offsetting the increasing prevalence of certain risk factors in late life are age-related increases in psychological resilience. Other protective factors include higher education and socioeconomic status, engagement in valued activities, and religious or spiritual involvement...Preventive interventions including education for individuals with chronic illness, behavioral activation, cognitive restructuring, problem-solving skills training, group support, and life review have also received support."