Social interaction 'can combat seniors' depression'

13 February 2019 08:44

Depression is a growing issue among the older population

Depression is a growing issue among the older population

Older people living with depression should be given better access to community activities and therapy instead of being prescribed antidepressants, researchers have urged.

According to a review of evidence by experts, up to 9.3% of adults aged over 75 are believed to be living with a major depressive disorder.

Doctors believe depression in older people is mainly linked to functional decline and social isolation, but research shows there are few treatments to address these issues.

Researchers also found people aged over 85 are five times more likely to be referred for psychological treatments than people aged 55-59, although older patients often prefer talking therapies.

Greater concern

The team, from University College London and the University of Bristol, called for better access to treatments "tailored to later life", such as talking therapies, community activities, internet based-therapies and bibliotherapy, instead of drugs.

The mental wellbeing of elderly patients should be a greater concern for doctors, the researchers also said, warning that many devote limited time to any problems during consultations.

"Primary care services for older people do not currently prioritise older adults' mental health to the same extent as their physical health, which is compounded by a lack of referral options suitable to older people's needs," they wrote.

"Investment in psychological therapies that are suitable for older adults, along with other social referral options, are needed to facilitate the identification and treatment of late-life depression."

Socially isolated

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "We do know that for many older patients, the underlying reasons for them visiting their GP might not be medical - they might be feeling lonely or be socially isolated.

"In these cases, it's important that we have access to 'social prescribing' schemes to link these patients with an appropriate class or group in the community, that can have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing, and we welcome the focus on this in the NHS long term plan."

The review, which examined a total of 27 studies, has been published in journal BJGP.

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