Recognizing those seniors at risk for depression could have multiple benefits

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Identifying seniors at risk for major depression could lead to preventive treatments that provide the greatest health benefit at the lowest cost, according to new research.

Professors of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center have pinpointed a number of prime factors for determining an elderly individuals risk for developing depression. Depression among the elderly has been linked to a doubling in the risk of Alzheimer's disease, as well as a worsening of chronic conditions. More than 600 seniors were surveyed, and follow-up interviews were conducted for up to four years. By the end of the study, 5.3% had developed an episode of major depression, according to the report.

The most apparent factors that contribute to depression include low-level depressive symptoms, perceived poor-quality social support, and a past history of depression. By identifying at-risk seniors and providing preventive care, seniors and physicians can prevent psychological suffering and also avoid the negative effects of depression on other health conditions, analysts suggest. The report appears in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.