The cost of late-life depression

In brief

To judge the true social impact of depression in the elderly and the benefits of treatment, it is essential to take account of free care provided by family members and friends. That conclusion comes from the Health and Retirement Study, conducted at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

More than 7,000 people age 70 and over who were asked about their feelings in the week before the interview, answered "yes" or "no" to eight questions that revealed typical symptoms of depression, such as "I was sad," "Everything was an effort," and "My sleep was restless."

Then they were asked whether they had problems or needed help with various daily activities — eating, toileting, dressing, bathing, walking, preparing meals, shopping, telephone calls, taking medications, managing money. Finally, they were asked about any regular free help with any of these activities they were getting from a relative or friend.

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