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Depression Strikes Older Women More Often Than Men

a senior woman who looks depressedOlder women are more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression and remain depressed for a longer period of time than men, a new study shows.

Depression in the elder is a disease that causes older adults to feel sad, to lose interest in activities, to withdraw from others and to have little energy, it’s different from normal feelings of sadness or grief that an elderly person might feel.

Depression in elderly people often goes untreated because many people think that depression is a normal part of aging and a natural reaction to chronic illness.

Elderly people are at a heightened risk of getting depression because of the changes to their personal well-being and the losses they might face.

Depression is known to be more common among women than men in the later years, but the reasons for this gender imbalance have been unclear, Dr. Lisa C. Barry from the Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut and colleagues explain. To investigate, they followed 754 men and women 70 and older for 7 years, checking on their mental health every 18 months. At each evaluation point, the researchers found, the women were more likely than the men to have transitioned from a non-depressed to a depressed state.

Overall, women were about twice as likely as men to become depressed, while they were 73 percent less likely to transition from being depressed to being non-depressed. And depressed women were 73 percent less likely to die during the study’s follow-up than their male peers. Another factor of why elderly women are more depressed then men is because the stresses of maintaining relationships or caring for an ill loved one and children also typically fall more heavily on women, which could contribute to higher rates of depression. Unmarried and widowed individuals who are elderly as well as those who lack a supportive social network also have elevated rates of depression.

Fortunately, the treatment prognosis for depression for the elderly is good. Once properly diagnosed, 80 percent of clinically depressed individuals can be effectively treated by medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or any combination of the three. Medications can be beneficial for elderly individuals in treating the symptoms of depression. Medications are frequently combined with supportive psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy to improve their effectiveness. Also, with the elderly, having peer interaction and activities is very important to the success and overcoming depression in elderly women.
 

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