I often suspect that an older person is depressed, but I cannot persuade colleagues to consider this diagnosis.

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Authors:
Gwyn Grout
Date Published:
01 October 2012
Last updated: 
01 October 2012

This practice question has been published with the kind permission of the Royal College of Nursing

Nurses frequently complain to me that when they think an older patient might have depression they have difficulty in convincing colleagues to take action. This could be because of the under-recognition of depression in old age, and also the way in which nurses articulate their concerns.

Recognition and attention

Depression is the most common mental health problem in later life (Manthorpe and Iliffe 2005). However, recognition and subsequent attention are poor. In line with the general population, 5 per cent of physically healthy older people have depression. However, in the presence of ill health, comorbidity or multimorbidity the figure increases to up to 33 per cent (Manthorpe and Iliffe 2005). Depression is also more likely to occur in people who receive home care services, are in care homes or who are carers.