Here’s some slightly depressing news: Older people with one or more chronic conditions or health concerns are at high risk for depression, according to a new study by AARP Services, Inc. and UnitedHealthcare.
The study surveyed more than 9,300 people ages 65 and older living in 10 states and enrolled in AARP Medicare Supplement plans insured by UnitedHealthcare. The study results appear in the September issue of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Nearly 25 percent of respondents reported evidence of depressive symptoms. According to the survey findings, having depressive symptoms was associated with significantly lower quality of life for all eight quality of life components measured. For example, compared to those who did not report depressive symptoms, the greatest impact of depressive symptoms was on social functioning and the ability to handle emotional roles.
“Detecting depression in adults 65 years and older is difficult because symptoms are often masked by the physical manifestations of other chronic conditions,” explains Dr. Richard Migliori, executive vice president of Health Services at UnitedHealth Group. “Given the substantial impact of depression on quality of life and the added health issues that depression poses for people with chronic conditions, targeting the physical and emotional aspects of chronic illness by using various depression-screening tools may help find a group that is more at risk. This will enable clinicians to focus their efforts on patients with the greatest need.”
The greatest impact of depressive symptoms among people with chronic conditions or health concerns was on one’s ability to handle physical and emotional roles, social functioning and bodily pain.
“We believe this survey should alert health professionals, patients and families of the potential negative impact that depression can have on quality of life among older adults,” says Dr. Charlotte Yeh, chief medical officer, AARP Services. “There are many treatments for depression in older adults, and we urge people 65 and over with depressive symptoms to talk with their doctors and learn more about what options are available.”