FAQ: Is Depression a Normal Part of Aging?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is depression a normal part of aging?

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

No, it's not normal to develop depression as one gets older. Depression is all too common, but it's never normal. Depression is an illness.

The risk of depression does increase as one gets older, however, as other illnesses increase or the ability to function independently decreases. And certain depression triggers are more common with age, such as becoming a caregiver, experiencing empty-nest syndrome, losing a job, or having other financial worries. These conditions can trigger depression in people genetically susceptible to this illness.

Community Answers

Davet answered...

The triggers mentioned above may trigger grief (normal) or what is called an "adjustment reaction" (normal, temporary negative feelings arising from a negative event). These are not "diseases." These are not depression, which is believed to be a disease. In the case of grief or adjustment reaction, talk to trusted friends, your minister, your medical doctor, and, if that doesn't help, find a therapist you are comfortable with in your area. I am only a Licensed Professional Counselor, I am not an MD like Dr. Robbins above, so I am not dis-respecting his info. Perhaps he is correct. But I have not seen any studies that negative life events lead to true medical depression. Quite the contrary, a recent study shows that people in their 80s and above are the happiest age group (and consider the negative life events they have been through). I would advise you to get another opinion, because 2 heads are better than one, even with MDs. If you cannot afford a therapist, find your local Catholic Charities (they have many talented therapists and only charge what you can afford), also, many caring therapists offer a "sliding-scale" i.e. lower charges for lower income...good luck, Dave