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Depression in Older Adults as a Global Burden

Depression is a global health burden. According to the National Mental Health Survey of 2015-16, about 7% of the Indian older adults suffer from depression and other related depressive disorders.

Depression is not simply a mental ailment but is a cause of distress for many older adults. Many people mistake the symptoms of depression for the symptoms of natural aging. Depression in older adults, when combined with other health disorders can prove fatal to the older adult.

Though there are advanced psychotherapies available for treating depression, prevention is always better than cure. Thankfully, as more people have started taking cognizance of the fact, scientists and doctors have started conducting in-depth research in the field of prevention of geriatric depression.

Also Read: Depression is not the end of happiness: Six ways to deal with it

Here we discuss the various techniques of prevention of late-life depression.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has classified prevention of depression into three categories: Universal, Selective and Indicative.

  1. Universal prevention means working on improvement in the general population.
  2. Selective prevention works on people who are at risk of developing depression.
  3. Indicative prevention works on treating older adults who have only a few symptoms of depression.

Before the prevention is carried out, there are two questions that need to be answered.

  1. Can early intervention targeting older adults at increased risk or with threshold symptoms of depression reduce the incidence, severity, and duration of major depression significantly?
  2. How are such prevention programs targeted at the elderly carried out effectively?

The prevention of depression in old age is important for the following reasons:

  1. Depression in older adults is more prevalent and debilitating
  2. Depression combined with other health conditions can cause suicidal thoughts
  3. Available treatments are not effective
  4. Milder symptoms are easier to treat and reverse than a full-blown depressive disorder
  5. Prevention of depression in the elderly is more cost-effective

Also Read: Do Support Groups Help Older Adults with Depression and Anxiety?

How to Prevent Depression in Older Adults:

  1. Support Groups: In most cases, older adults develop depression due to neglect or abandonment. Support groups help older adults develop new skills and interact with other similar people. They are encouraged to take up new hobbies. Interactive workshops like laughter yoga and Indian crafts are conducted. Many support groups also have a doctor on their panel. These doctors guide older adults to diagnose their issues and seek proper treatment.
  2. Check hormone levels: Thyroid hormones play an important role in causing depression. Hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid has symptoms similar to depression. When you face some symptoms of depression, get your thyroid levels checked. Correcting it can automatically cure depression.
  3. Apps: Many older adults are familiar with smartphones. There are many apps available on these phones to identify and prevent depression. Use these apps to recover quickly from depression.
  4. Keep the brain busy: As we age, it becomes more difficult to occupy the brain. Depression could be a result of less brain function. You can take up brain games to pass time. These games help sharpen your brain and make it work properly. Crosswords, Sudoku, board games and other interactive games all serve as fodder for the brain.
  5. Eat well: What we eat is directly related to brain function. Having a healthy and nutritious diet is the key to a happy brain.

Depression is a debilitating disease. But with timely intervention, you can control it. Use these above techniques to prevent depression and live happily.

Also Read: Meet Preetida Dixit, A Single Mom who Battled Depression And Emerged Victoriously

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