Depression in Elderly Populations

Dr. Sridhar Yaratha currently serves as an attending psychiatrist at Gateway Homes in Virginia, where he cares for adult patients with chronic mental illness. There and in other areas of his practice, Dr. Sridhar Yaratha has encountered a significant level of depression among elderly people, and he has lectured and conducted seminars on the subject with other psychiatric and medical professionals.

Depression greatly impacts a person’s overall sense of well-being. Unfortunately, it is particularly common in elderly populations, with over six million older adults affected by the condition. However, among this large group of people, only a small percentage receives help for their distress. There are a number of reasons why depression among seniors might go undetected or untreated.

One reason is that many people mistakenly view symptoms of depression as a regular part of growing older and therefore not a cause of concern. In other cases, caregivers might confuse the symptoms of depression with those of other health-related conditions. The symptoms of depression vary from one person to another, but might include feeling sad or irritable, having decreased levels of energy, and a lack of appetite. In addition to going undiagnosed, older individuals are often less likely to seek help for depression because they may not view it as a condition that can be treated.

Finally, an older person’s current circumstances may contribute to the problem. For instance, the person might have a smaller support system than he or she used to have, a factor that can make dealing with depression or getting help for it more difficult. Therefore, it is important that people be on the lookout for signs of depression among older friends and relatives.

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