Depression in Older Men
Depression can strike anyone regardless of age, ethnic background,
socioeconomic status, or gender; however, large-scale research studies have
found that depression is about twice as common in women as in men.
In the United States, researchers estimate that in any given one-year period,
depressive illnesses affect 12 percent of women (more than 12 million women) and
nearly seven percent of men (more than six million men).
But important questions remain to be answered about the causes underlying this
gender difference. For example, is depression truly less common among men, or
are men just less likely than women to recognize, acknowledge, and seek help for
Men must cope with several kinds of stress as they
age. If they have been the primary wage earners for their families and
have identified heavily with their jobs, they may feel stress upon
retirement-loss of an important role, loss of self-esteem-that can lead to
depression. Similarly, the loss of friends and family and the onset of
other health problems can trigger depression. Nevertheless, most elderly
people feel satisfied with their lives, and it is not "normal"
for older adults to feel depressed. Depression is an illness that can be effectively treated, thereby
decreasing unnecessary suffering, improving the chances for recovery from
other illnesses, and prolonging productive life.
The importance of identifying and treating depression in older adults is
stressed by the statistics on suicide among the elderly. There is a common
perception that suicide rates are highest among the young; however, it is the
elderly, particularly older white males that have the highest rates. Over 70
percent of older suicide victims have been to their primary care physician
within the month of their death, many with a depressive illness that was not
detected. This has led to research efforts to
determine how to best improve physicians' abilities to detect and treat
depression in older adults.
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This information has been provided with the kind permission of the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.gov).
Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004