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HealthInfo Canterbury

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 older adults

The symptoms of depression in older adults 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.

You may like to try this online test for depression.

Often, older adults with depression do not seek help, but 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.

Talk to your GP or practice nurse about how you are feeling. Remember that talking about your mental health is no different than talking about a physical problem. You may need to have several appointments in case your doctor needs to rule out other conditions.

In some cases, your doctor might advise referral to a specific service for older people. They may even send someone out to your home to talk with you.

Self-care for depression in older adults

Phone lines

There's always someone to call if you're struggling:


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:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Service Development Manager, Planning and Funding, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed September 2020.

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