Depression is a condition with both emotional and physical components. In addition, acute and chronic medical conditions can contribute to the development of elderly depression in this stage of life. However, geriatric depression isn’t a normal part of aging, and it requires treatment.

Symptoms of Depression in Elderly People

Depression in elderly populations presents with similar symptoms as depression in other age groups. Geriatric depression symptoms include:

  • Aches and pains (frequent doctor visits)
  • Depressed mood
  • Disturbance in sleep or eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from social situations.

Elderly depression patients may also appear to be planning for the end of life or fixating on death. They may report feeling like a burden to family, or that they have no reason to continue living. In the elderly, medical conditions may bring on these geriatric depression symptoms.

Vision and Hearing Loss

Vision loss can lead to geriatric depression. Macular degeneration is an eye disease that eventually leads to blindness. Affected elderly people can develop geriatric depression, since loss of sight often means loss of independence. This difficult adjustment can sometimes lead to feelings of anger or frustration, as well as a sense of isolation. These emotional components of the disease can lead to withdrawal, depressed mood or other elderly depression symptoms.

Depression in elderly populations can also result from age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis. Reduced ability to communicate with friends, family and community members can cause elderly individuals to become depressed, withdrawn and isolated.

Elderly Medical Conditions: Cancer

Cancer is a devastating diagnosis for people of any age. Older individuals with terminal cancer can develop depression; in fact, the American Cancer Society reports that up to one in four cancer patients has clinical depression.

Despite its prevalence, however, elderly depression shouldn’t be considered a necessary part of dealing with cancer. Depression in elderly cancer patients may be recognized by typical depression symptoms, as well as feelings of being a burden or wanting life to end.

Other Chronic or Terminal Elderly Medical Conditions

Depression in elderly people may coincide with other terminal or chronic diseases of aging:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative disease that affects movement, speech and swallowing; it is often called Lou GehrigÕs disease.
  • Arthritis can limit mobility and cause significant pain.
  • ParkinsonÕs disease can cause problems with movement, speech and swallowing.
  • Stroke can lead to physical, cognitive or language problems.

Each of these conditions, among others, leads to significant physical and social changes in the lives of the affected, which may cause depression in elderly people.

Depression and Elderly Medical Conditions

It’s normal to be upset or sad when dealing with a terminal or chronic health condition. Depression, however, is never a normal condition, and its symptoms go beyond typical sadness. If you recognize depression symptoms in a loved one with any of these diseases of aging, a doctor can determine whether depression treatment, such as antidepressant drugs, can help to reduce these symptoms.


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American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Staff. (n.d.). Hearing loss and depression. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website:

Clark, M. (n.d.). Managing chronic pain, depression and antidepressants: Issues and relationships. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center website:

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation Staff. (n.d.). Depression late in life: Not a normal part of aging. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation website:

Merck Pharmaceuticals Staff. (n.d.). ParkinsonÕs disease. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the Merck website:

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 Posted on : June 26, 2014