Senior Depression: The Facts

The Declaration of Independence states that we all have certain inalienable rights, among which are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And yet, just a few centuries after the declaration was written, we seem to be a highly dissatisfied nation. According to Pew Research Center, only a third of adults in this country say they’re very happy. With the freedom to choose your own religion, political beliefs and life path, Americans must contend with the conundrum of their general discontent. Although it can be hard to make the distinction, there’s a difference between unhappiness and depression.

Some older adults argue that depressive disorders were far less common before we grew up and became a Prozac nation. It’s possible that depressive disorders are no more prevalent now, but are simply less taboo these days. Whatever the case, there’s no denying that the statistics are somewhat shocking. Although depression is depressing, it needs to be acknowledged.

Top 5 Facts About Senior Depression:


  • Approximately 2 million seniors in the US have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder[1]
  • 5 million seniors may have symptoms that don’t meet the full diagnostic criteria for a depressive illness[2]
  • Approximately half of nursing facility residents experience major symptoms of depression[3]
  • In the study mentioned above, researchers found seniors who were depressed were moved into nursing homes at a rate of 1 ½ times that of non-depressed residents[4]
  • Up to 75 percent of patients experience end-of-life depression; persistent feelings of depression are not normal, even at end of life[5]


Now that we’ve taken a realistic look at the incidence of depressive disorders, it may be a little easier to accept the possibility that you, too, may be affected. While it’s entirely possible you may simply be feeling blue, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your physical and mental health. In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the local and national resources for treating depression. Future installments will address depression in long term care facilities and examine the link between depression and physical ailments, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

Be aware, be well, be happy—

Lori Deschene

[1]Narrow WE. One-year prevalence of depressive disorders among adults 18 and over in the U.S.: NIMH ECA prospective data. Unpublished table.

[2]Alexopoulos GS. Mood disorders. In: Sadock BJ, Sadock VA, eds. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 7th Edition, Vol. 2. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 2000.

[3] Treatment of Depression in Nursing Homes. Retreieved December 3, 2006, from Clinical Trials Search Web Site:

[4] Depression in Assisted Living. Retreived December 3, 2006, from Ivanhoe’s Medical Breakthroughs Web Site:

[5] EPEC/Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association. Education for physicians on end-of-life care. Chicago, Ill.: American Medical Association, 1999.