Depression in the elderly is complicated but treatable

Depression is sometimes viewed as a normal part of aging. It shouldn't be. Left untreated, depression increases the likelihood of disability, placement in a nursing home, and death. Suicide risk also increases with age; white men over age 85 have the highest suicide rate in the United States. Depression in the elderly can often be treated effectively, but when depressive symptoms arise, it can be challenging not to mistake them for symptoms of another medical disorder, reports the February 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

Although some elderly people with depression develop classic symptoms such as persistent sadness and despair, others may seek help for less typical symptoms such as heart palpitations, fatigue, tremors, or vomiting. People may also report cognitive problems such as an inability to concentrate or remember things.

It's not entirely clear why symptoms of depression in the elderly may differ from those in younger adults. Coexisting medical problems, medication side effects, and the natural aging process may all contribute.

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