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Depression in Older Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What do I need to know about depression in older adults?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness that do not go away. The person may lose interest in things he or she used to enjoy. Depression is common in older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging. Treatment can help improve the person's daily life. You can help support the person by encouraging him or her to work with healthcare providers to manage depression.

What causes or increases the risk for depression in older adults?

Depression may be caused by changes in brain chemicals that affect the person's mood. His or her risk for depression may be higher if he or she has any of the following:

What are the signs and symptoms of depression in older adults?

How is depression diagnosed?

The person's healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and how long the person has had them. The provider will ask if the person has any family members with depression. The provider may ask you or someone close to the person to describe any symptoms if the person is not able. Tell the person's provider about any stressful events you know about in his or her life. The provider may ask about any other health conditions or medicines the person takes. The person may also need tests to rule out other conditions that can look like depression. Examples include dementia or Alzheimer disease.

How is depression treated?

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to help the person manage depression?

Where can I go for more help if I think the person is considering suicide?

Where can I find more information or support?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I call the person's therapist or doctor?

Care Agreement

The person has the right to help plan his or her care. You can help the person learn about depression and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with the person and healthcare providers so he or she can decide what care to receive. The person always has the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Depression

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments guides (external)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.