Mental Health

Geriatric Depression: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

geriatric depression Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Geriatric depression is a psychological issue affecting the elderly. This mental illness is usually characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, and gloominess. In any case, enduring melancholy is certainly not a regular part of aging.[i]

Although depression is common in all age groups, anyone can be affected by this serious mental illness, from young to older people. However, it is maybe a lot harder to be managed by the more senior.

 Memory, weight, and wellness are only a couple of aspects influenced as age advances.

The elderly also face some troublesome changes related to aging, such as:

  • The demise of a life partner,
  • Social detachment (nursing home situation),
  • Potentially clinical severe issues.

These difficult situations can frequently cause sorrow or distress (geriatric depression), which typically may last for a little while or even some months. In any case, without strong emotional support, the downturn can take an exceptionally overwhelming cost in such an individual’s reality, up to and including loss of pleasure in life or losing the will to live.

A significant contrast between the older and the younger is that the elderly are more averse to look for help for these sentiments of misery and sadness. What’s more, because there are a few medications that may likewise cause despondency, some people simply expect that downturn is a normal part of getting old. Over 6 million Americans beyond 65 years old are affected. However, just about 10% get treatment[ii]. Noticeable downturn or decline must be assessed and treated as quickly as time permits to guarantee the prosperity and happiness of the person.

On the off chance that you notice or are worried about any side effects due to the medication you take, contact a doctor right away.

 Causes and Symptoms of Geriatric Depression

causes geriatric depression

There is no single cause of depression in any age group. Researches indicate that biological, social, emotional, psychological, and environmental factors may contribute to the development of depression in the elderly.

Age-related diseases and pathologies are considered the most well-known triggers of late-life depression[iii]. They may include:

  • Restricted mobility
  • Isolation from family members
  • A shift from work to retirement
  • Financial difficulties
  • Confronting mortality
  • Death of loved ones
  • Divorce or widowhood
  • Substance abuse or misuse
  • Nostalgia, remembering the good old days
  • Chronic medical conditions

Despite the difference in causes, the symptoms of depression are almost the same in all age groups, including[iv]

  • Depressed or sad mood
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Not getting pleasure in normally pleasurable activities
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Either too high or too low energy levels (usually lethargy and tiredness)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Suicidal thought and suicide attempts
  • Poor memory and lack of concentration
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation

Late-life depression may be the reason behind the medically unexplained physical pains and body aches in older adults.


diagnosis geriatric depression

Legitimate diagnosis of geriatric depression can be troublesome. Concerning the elderly, the primary contact person for the clinical purpose is commonly their general physician, who may refer to a mental health expert after checking for the symptoms.

A mental health expert will evaluate the symptoms, temperament, conduct, everyday exercises, and family health history.

Diagnosis of late-life depression is made using the same criteria for Major Depressive Disorder found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)

To meet the criteria for a major depressive episode, a patient must have five of the nine symptoms listed above nearly every day for at least two weeks and must have either a depressed mood or anhedonia.

A geriatric depression scale (GDS) is also an important diagnostic tool for depression in the elderly. The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)  was first introduced in 1982 by J.A. Yesavage and others.[v]This scale is a self-assessment form or questionnaire consisting of 30 questions with a Yes or No format. The patients circle the answer that best describes their condition. The screening test score is then used to assess the results and identify the symptoms of depression.

Treatments for Geriatric Depression

treatments geriatric depression

 Medications, therapeutic support, and lifestyle modifications are a few available options for treating geriatric depression or alleviating its symptoms.[vi]

Medications used to treat geriatric depression include antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Therapies may include psychotherapy where a depressed individual regularly interacts with a mental health expert and discusses unreservedly his/her condition. This discussion aims to improve the patient’s mental health and overall wellbeing. Art therapy may also work for some elderly, where they are asked to express their feelings creatively.

Lifestyle changes for late-life depression include a healthy and balanced diet, finding a new hobby or interest, regular exercise, and enjoying the company of family and friends.

In cases where all the treatment mentioned above options fail, modulation of the nervous system’s activity using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used[vii]. ECT has been shown to be adequately effective as a therapy in treating the elderly.[viii]

Geriatric Depression is real and dangerous. But at the same time, it’s also treatable. If you, your parents, or grandparents are facing this silent killer, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor and seek medical advice.

Infographic Geriatric Depression
Infographic Geriatric Depression




[iv]  American Psychiatric Association (22 May 2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). American Psychiatric

Association. CiteSeerX 978-0-89042-555-8.

[v]  Yesavage JA, Brink TL, Rose TL, et al. Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: a preliminary report. J Psychiatr Res. 1982-83;17(1):37-49. PMID 7183759

[vi] “UpToDate” Retrieved 20 November 2019.

[vii] UpToDate” Retrieved 20 November 2019.

[viii] van der Wurff, F. B.; Stek, M. L.; Hoogendijk, W. J. G.; Beekman, A. T. F. (October 2003). “The efficacy and safety of ECT in depressed older adults: a literature review”International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry18 (10): 894–904. doi:10.1002/gps.944ISSN 0885-6230PMID 14533122.

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