Depression Among Older Women | Categories Utah Women and Mental Health | DOI: 10.26054/0KKPG57EQ9

Background

Older women are more at risk of experiencing depression than older men. Each year, approximately, 6 million adults, 65 years of age and older [1], suffer from depression, and only ten percent receive treatment for the condition (See figure 1) [2]. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-TR, the criteria for mental health professionals to diagnosis severe depression or a Major Depressive Episode in an individual includes: “five (or more) of following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning;

  • depressed mood most of the day…
  • markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day…
  • significant weight loss or weight gain when not dieting, or decrease or increase in appetite…
  • insomnia or hypersomnia…
  • psychomotor agitation or retardation…
  • fatigue or loss of energy…
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt…
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness…
  • recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation…

For this diasgnosis, the individual needs to experience the above symptoms nearly everyday [3].

Figure 1. Depression and Treatment of American Adults 65 Years and Older
Figure 1. Depression and Treatment of American Adults 65 Years and Older. Source: Geriatric Mental Health Foundation

Utah Data

In a 2002-2003 Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, 11.0% of Utah women ages 65-74 reported experiencing seven or more poor mental health days in the past month compared to 3.5% of Utah men in the same age group. This percentage is comparable to the national average for women in this age group, at 11.5%, but is less than the national average for men, at 6.2%. As shown in Figure 2, the same trend applies for older age groups (Figure 2) [4].

Figure 2. Percentage of Older Adult Who Reported Poor Mental Health
Figure 2. Percentage of Older Adult Who Reported Poor Mental Health. Source: Utah Department of Health.

Risk Factors

Depression in later life often co-exists with other physical disabilities and illnesses, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and cancer [5]. Psychological, emotional, and physical consequences of depression can be extremely damaging and potentially life threatening to older women who suffer from it. Further symptoms often include back pain, muscle aches, joint pain, chest pain, headaches, fatigue, sleeping problems, changes in appetite or weight [6], persistent sadness, excessive crying, hopelessness, helplessness, and thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts [7].

Services

Depression is a treatable condition, which is highly responsive to treatment. For further information on depression contact your family doctor.

References

  1. Geriatric Mental Health Foundation: Late Life Depression Factsheet. Available online at http://www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/factsheets/depression_factsheet.html. Accessed November 8, 2006.
  2. Mental Health: Helpguide. Available online at http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_elderly.htm. Accessed November 12, 2006.
  3. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
  4. Utah Department of Health: Aging and Health in Utah Implications for Public Health. Available online at http://health.utah.gov/bhp/Aging_Report_April05.pdf. Accessed November 12, 2006.
  5. National Institute of Mental Heath: Older Adults and Mental Health. Available online at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/depoldermenu.cfm. Accessed November 5, 2006.
  6. WebMD: Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression. Available online at http://www.webmd.com/content/article/106/108345.htm. Accessed November 1, 2006.
  7. National Institute of Mental Heath: Depression. Available online at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/nimhdepression.pdf. Accessed October 29, 2006.

Emogene Grundvig, MSW

Editorial Coordinator, 2007 Utah Health Review, Women's Health in Utah