Headlines: August 14th, 2008

Depression is an illness that blights the lives of many older people, but it can be treated. Research by the charity Age Concern has found that for many older people this doesn’t happen. The Charity has called for the problem of depression in later life to become a priority for the NHS.

Research revealed that one in four older people, two million over the age of 65, living in the community, have symptoms of depression that are severe enough to warrant intervention. Half of this group have symptoms of clinical depression. The term “depression” is commonly used to describe a temporary depressed mood when one “feels blue”. Symptoms can include loss of confidence, loss of concentration, feeling tired all the time, distancing yourself from other people, especially those close to you, and a feeling that life is pointless.

Health professionals, however, use the term to describe a serious and often disabling illness that can significantly affect general health and quality of life, sleeping and eating, family life and social activities.

Age Concern claims that despite a Government commitment to promoting age equality in mental health, it has ignored guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, that a full range of treatments is effective and should be available to older people with depression.

The Charity has set out a plan to get a better deal for older people. They should be encouraged to seek help through a public education programme. The ageist attitudes held by some GPs, preventing older people with depression from receiving the help, should be tackled with a training and development programme. The NHS should commission mental health services that take into account the prevalence of depression among older people.