Are older adults more depressed? By: Larkin LaBrunerie

Many people in this day-in-age believe that as you get older, you get grumpier. It is like your emotions are on a downhill slope, and with each year, you get less and less capable of handling day-to-day tasks and emotions with a smile on your face.  These stereotypes are due to the old lady you see in the grocery store who is yelling at the cashier, or the old man honking on the streets. These depressive states are most likely due to the idea that their life will not get better, their lack of ability to do things for themselves, and loss of loved ones. As people get older, they are stripped of their self-esteem, when they have to have others do the simple tasks for them.  They become less active, which in turn causes unhealthy habits and a lack of endorphin release.  They loss those closest to them, which in turn will cause them to think that there is no reason to continue on.  Because of these stereotypes, there has been a lot of research done to correlate depression and aging.

According to the article written by Amy Fiske, depression in older age is represented by somatic symptoms, loss of interest, as well as cognitive changes (Fiske, Wetherell, Gatz, 2009). This can be supported in the way that older adults tend to lose sleep due to pain, sadness, and stress.  Also, as people get older, the brain does start to slow down, this is where the cognitive changes come into play.  If older adults are not working their brains each day, they will start to lose certain abilities, this will cause depression as well. There are many ways that these depressive symptoms can be combatted.  If an elderly adult plays brain games each day, their cognitive losses will be significantly lower.  Also, finding hobbies and activities that keep them interested and excited are great ways to not only spend the day, but to make sure they are doing something they thoroughly enjoy.  Those elderly adults who do not try to combat these changes are the ones who are depressed, and who will show grumpiness towards others.

In another article done by Molly McLaren and associates stated the more scientific reasoning behind depression in older adults. Differences in brain volumes have commonly been reported in older adults with both subthreshold and major depression (McLaren, Szmkowicz, et al. 2017) The study found that the more depressive symptoms an adult had, there was an increase left inferior temporal gray matter volume. This means that those depressive symptoms come from the inferior temporal lobes, which has to do with object memory and vision stimuli.  If an older person does not have the capability to remember certain objects or humans due to more gray matter in their brain, it will cause sadness.  They will start to feel stupid because they will not remember what simple objects are.  With that, vision stimuli is a huge part of emotions in any human.  If you see something or someone, usually you have a reaction.  For example, if you see a yummy dessert, your stimuli will make you want that.  If you see an attractive person from the opposite gender, it is your stimuli that will make you think they are attractive, not just your eyes.  With this, the lack of vision stimuli will cause older adults to see things, but not feel anything with their sight.  The idea of not being able to feel anything after seeing someone or something would cause a sort of depression in anyone.  It is those kinds of stimuli that sort the good from the bad.  It is also the part of your brain that reminds you of certain things you do not like when you see them, and not having that, you would have to be reminded you didn’t like something after every try.  This would get very frustrating for older adults, as they cannot tell what they do and do not like.

Cognition is a big part of the human body. It is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge. All humans are always constantly acquiring knowledge and using it to their advantage. According to this article, the prevalence of late-life depression is about 3-4.5% of adults 65 and older (Wang, Blazer 2015).  Although this is a low percentage, it still makes up a lot of older adults in the world, and it still is enough for certain stereotypes to be formed about them.  This articles states the many symptoms to depression.  They say it is hard to distinguish cause and effect in certain cases because of the interactions between medical illness, depression, and cognitive impairment (Wang, Blazer 2015). Studies have shown that vascular risk factors, which include; high blood pressure, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and overweight. As a person gets older, the heart undergoes subtle changes, even without disease. The reason these risk factors are associated with late-life depression is because it causes not only trouble on the heart, but on the body in general.  Lack of physical activity will not only cause poor strength and ability, but it will not allow the release of endorphins, which are a mood booster. Unhealthy eating can either cause an older adult to be unhappy with their size, or immobile. It will also cause them to get sicker faster, as well as have more life-threatening issues within their body.  All of these symptoms go hand and hand with late-life depression.  Within cognition, this article states that older men are at a higher risk of suicide due to the thought of dying alone. It also states that the ventromedial prefrontal cortices, which handle reasoning and decision making, are another reason for depression.  Medical illnesses are another factor of depression (Wang, Blazer 2015).

Lastly, in an article done by the Department of Mental Health Sciences at the University College London, it is stated that depression in later-life is associated with disability, increased mortality, and poorer outcomes from physical illness (Carter, 2011).  There are many factors relating depression and older-adult.  Diseases, dementia, stroke, social isolation, financial issues, and loss of social status are only some of the risk factors for older adults and depression. If you lose your friends and your money, that will cause a lot of stress and loneliness, which will in turn spark depressive symptoms. The lack of concentration will also give an older-adult a lot of frustration. This article supports the stereotypes that depression in older adults is very prevalent, and in turn will cause grumpiness towards others.

In conclusion, it is important to realize that older-adults are humans too, and they are going through things that no one else has.  They are losing loved ones, declining in health, and losing some brain abilities that we all have.  Because of all of these symptoms of old age, it is very common for people of old age to go into depression.  Although we realize that they are going through these things, we need to be more sympathetic of them.  The stereotypes that older adults are grumpy have been proven true by a lot of research.  That does not mean that we shouldn’t treat them with the same amount of love and heart that we would treat someone who isn’t grumpy or depressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference:

Fiske, A., Wetherell, J., & Gatz, M. (2009, April 27). Depression in Older Adults. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.032408.153621#abstractSection

 

McLaren, M. E., Szymkowicz, S. M., O’Shea, A., Woods, A. J., Anton, S. D., & Dotson, V. M. (2017). Vertex-wise examination of depressive symptom dimensions and brain volumes in older adults. ScienceDirect, (260), 70-75. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu:2048/science/article/pii/S0925492716300798?np=y&npKey=f5e4cb44722684927bcc5fa8396867b04cd648c8f03bfee7e49e30e7418b0695

 

Rodda, J., Z. W., & Carter, J. (2011). Depression in Older Adults. BMJ, (343), 5219th ser. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/343/7825/Clinical_Review.full.pdf

 

Wang, S., & Blazer, D. G. (2015, January 12). Depression and Cognition in the Eldery. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032814-112828

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