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HealthInfo Canterbury

About depression in older adults

This information is about depression in older adults. Read more about depression in adults, youth depression, postnatal depression.

About depression in older adults

Depression is not a normal part of ageing and it is not a character weakness. It is a medical illness for which there are effective treatments, no matter what your age.

Depression is common in all adults, even older adults, who often do not seek help. Depression can be a serious illness. It is more than just a low mood. People with depression feel intensely sad or low for long periods and often without reason. They find it hard to do everyday things and often do not enjoy once pleasurable activities. Depression can have an effect on physical and mental health. The symptoms of depression can be similar to dementia and other physical illnesses, and a medical assessment is always recommended. Some illnesses that affect older people (for example, stroke, Parkinson disease, and so on) can put older people more at risk of depression, as can social factors such as isolation, loneliness, lack of independence, income, or self-worth.

Depression is much easier to deal with if it is dealt with quickly. It helps to understand what can cause it and ways of getting through it.

Try this online test for depression.


At times, suicide might seem like a solution to depression. If you or a friend is considering acting on suicidal thoughts and needs help, phone the Depression Helpline on 0800‑111‑757 or txt 4202 (available 24/7), or phone Lifeline 0800‑543‑354 (available 24/7). Or you can contact your local mental health crisis team:

On the next page: Living with depression for older adults

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2018.

See also:

Getting help for a mental health issue

Medications for mental health issues

Reading in Mind book scheme

Page reference: 496674

Review key: HIDPO-57702