Geriatric Depression: Do you recognize it?


Geriatric depression can be difficult to recognize, but should not be considered a normal part of aging¹. Depression later in life is associated with changes in emotional processing², suicidality, cardiovascular diseases, and morbidity from heart diseases³. These findings highlight the importance of recognizing and treating depression in the geriatric population.

Research has shown that geriatric populations are undertreated for depression, often due to patient characteristics (e.g. decreased cognitive score)4. While only 20% of the geriatric population are identified as having a primary diagnosis of Depression, over 60% of geriatric patients report moderate to severe depressive symptoms at admission (N=1635). When provided with treatment, our patients demonstrated a decrease in the severity of reported depressive symptoms.

Geriatric Depression Scale (GDSP) Admission/Discharge scores are measured on a scale from 0 to 15, where a higher score indicates a higher level of depression. Change in GDSP is measured on a scale from -15 to +15, where a higher score indicates greater improvement in depression.
¹NIMH (1998). Older adults and depression. Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health Website.
²Mah, L., & Pollock, B. G., (2010). Emotional processing deficits in late-life depression. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(7), 652-656.
³Heok, K. E., Ho, R. (2008).  The many faces of geriatric depression. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 21(6), 540-545.
4Barry, L.C., Abou, J.J., Simen, A.A., & Gill, T.M. (2011). Under-treatment of depression in older persons. Journal of Affective Disorders, 136(3), 789-796.
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