Depression tends to last longer in elderly adults. It also doubles their risk to develop cardiac diseases and increases their risk of death from illness, while reducing their ability to rehabilitate. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the presence of depression substantially increased the likelihood of death from those illnesses. Depression also has been associated with increased risk of death following a heart attack. For that reason, making sure that an elderly person you are concerned about is evaluated and treated is important, even if the depression is mild.
Depression in the elderly is more likely to lead to suicide. The risk of suicide is a serious concern among elderly patients with depression. Elderly white men are at greatest risk, with suicide rates in people ages 80 to 84 more than twice that of the general population. The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in people age 65 and older to be a major public health problem.
• Certain medicines or combination of medicines
• Other illnesses
• Living alone, social isolation
• Recent bereavement
• Presence of chronic or severe pain
• Damage to body image (from amputation, cancer surgery, or heart attack)
• Fear of death
• Previous history of depression
• Family history of major depressive disorder
• Past suicide attempt(s)
• Substance abuse