Considerations for Depression In the Aging Population
It is common to see depression in the elderly, but this should not be confused with it being normal. Depression in the aging population affects almost 6 million people older than age 65. Only about 10% receive some kind of treatment for their depression.
The reason for this is that the elderly person often has different symptoms of depression when compared to younger people, which may sometimes be confused with side-effects of medications or symptoms of other illnesses they may have.
Depression in the Elderly Population and in Younger People
Depression affects the older population differently than it does younger people. In older people, depression often happens with other medical conditions and lasts a longer period of time.
Depression also increases the aging population’s risk of suicide, especially in men. The suicide rate in individuals between the age of 80 and 84 is twice that of younger people. The National Institute of Mental Health thinks that depression in the aged population is a significant public health problem.
The Centers for Disease Control report that white American males age 85 and older have the highest suicide rates as compared to any other demographic, and this rate is 4x the population as a whole; 51 out of every 100,000 white men age 85 or older commit and succeed at suicide each year.
Risk Factors for Depression in The Aging Population
Things That Increase Depression in Older People:
Getting older is often seen along with a loss of social support because the person has changed their location, they have retired, or have had a death of a spouse or another loved one.
Because of these changes in the elderly individual’s circumstances and the fact that older people are expected to decrease their activity level, the family and the patient’s doctors may miss the signs and symptoms of depression. This means that treatment often is delayed, causing many older people to deal with depression unnecessarily.
The brain scans of those who first get depressed at an older age often show spots on the brain that might not be receiving enough oxygen, probably from suffering from high blood pressure. Chemical changes in the brain cells may increase the likelihood that the person will be depressed, even without any life stressor.
Insomnia Is Related to Depression in The Aging Population
Insomnia is generally one of the signs of depression. There have been studies showing that insomnia is also a risk factor for the onset and recurrence of depression, especially in the elderly.
Many experts recommend that the older person avoid taking benzodiazepines or the newer hypnotic drugs (such as Lunesta and Ambien). According to the American Geriatric Society, these drugs carry a risk of falls, respiratory depression, and impaired alertness.
Nowadays, geriatric consultants like to treat insomnia in the aged population with a low-dose tricyclic antidepressant or the hormone melatonin. Other possibly sedating antidepressants, such as trazodone or Remeron, are sometimes given for both depression and insomnia in older people.
A new sleep aid, called Belsomra has been found to be effective in the treatment of insomnia in the elderly. If there isn’t any improvement in the person’s sleep pattern, psychiatrist may recommend psychotherapy or other types of medication.
Treatment of Depression in The Aging Population
There are many treatment choices for people with depression. They include ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), counseling, psychotherapy, or medications.
Depression may be seen in the form of physical complaints, rather than the typical symptoms of depression. This often sets back the time for appropriate treatment.
Depression Shown to Increase Rate of Aging in Cells
According to scientific research, people who are depressed may age more quickly. Researcher from Denmark compared DNA strands called telomeres. They looked at more than 2400 people, some of whom had depression while others did not.
Telomeres are part of the DNA of the cells that protect the cells from becoming damaged. Telomeres get shorter each time the cells divide. This makes them a useful marker for aging. Researchers have found that the telomeres of people who are depressed were markedly shorter. They were about 84 base pairs of DNA shorter than those who had never had depression.
The results were true even after the scientists accounted many different lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoking and heavy drinking. As people use about 14-22 base pairs of telomeres per year, the scientists said that the difference in the comprises 4-6 years of aging.
The research study showed only an association between shorter telomeres and depression but they didn’t prove a cause and effect link. The scientists reported not being completely sure what shorter telomeres have to do with depression and aging.
Incidentally, experts say that having shorter telomeres somehow made up for emotional difficulties., though it’s more likely, however, that depression causes DNA damage that leaves the damage to the cells, even at the level of the cell.
Depression is known to disturb many different physical systems. It changes the hormones, changes how the nerves work, and suppresses the nerve system. People who have a history of depressive symptoms have greater risks for diseases of aging, such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, and heart disease.
This suggests that psychological distress, as seen in those who have been depressed has a detrimental and psychological impact on the wear and tear of an individual’s body. This results in the acceleration of biological aging. A study was done on this and was published by the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
One expert indicated that the group is important because it involved a large number of patients. Prior research asked the same questions but had different results, which is little and varies from person to person. It isn’t a very big effect but it appears to be real.
Shortening of the Telomeres
The next question that science must answer is whether shortening of the telomeres really makes a difference and if reversing it could actually make your health better.
Other research studies have shown that a healthier diet could improve a person’s health. Other research studies have shown that a healthier diet, measures to decrease stress, and exercise might make the telomeres longer. It isn’t known whether this has an impact on cellular function. If this is the case, it has potential importance in scientific medicine.
Depression is a treatable condition and isn’t a normal part of aging. If you are worried about a loved one, offer to go with them to seen a physician who can provide a diagnosis and treatment. Depression isn’t about just being blue or the emotions we feel when we grieve the loss of someone we love. Someone who is depressed has anxiety and sadness that can last for many weeks. They may also experience the following:
How is Depression Different for the Elderly?
Depression is different for the elderly in the following ways: