The notion that older people are happier than younger people is being challenged following a recent study led by a University of Bradford lecturer.
In fact it suggests that people get more depressed from age 65 onwards.
The study, led by psychology lecturer Dr Helena Chui and recently published in the international journal Psychology and Aging, builds on a 15-year project observing over 2,000 older Australians living in the Adelaide area.
Previous studies have shown an increase in depressive symptoms with age but only until the age of 85. This is the first study to examine the issue beyond that age.
Both men and women taking part in the study reported increasingly more depressive symptoms as they aged, with women initially starting with more depressive symptoms than men. However, men showed a faster rate of increase in symptoms so that the difference in the genders was reversed at around the age of 80.
Key factors in these increases include levels of physical impairment, the onset of medical conditions, particularly chronic ones, and the approach of death. Half of those in the study suffered with arthritis and both men and women with the chronic condition reported more depressive symptoms than those without.
Dr Chui said: “These findings are very significant and have implications for how we deal with old age. It’s the first study to tell us depressive symptoms continue to increase throughout old age. We are in a period of unprecedented success in terms of people living longer than ever and in greater numbers and we should be celebrating this but it seems that we are finding it hard to cope.
“It seems that we need to look carefully at the provision of adequate services to match these needs, particularly in the area of mental health support and pain management. Social policies and ageing-friendly support structures, such as the provision of public transport and access to health care services are needed to target the ‘oldest-old’ adults as a whole.”
About this aging and depression research
Funding: The study is funded by the Australian Research Council, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the Canada Research Chairs Program. The research team included Denis Gestorf of Humboldt University, Christiane A. Hoppman of University of British Columbia, and Mary A. Luszcz of Flinders University.
Source: Mark Thompson – University of Bradford Image Credit: The image is in the public domain Original Research:Abstract for “Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Old Age: Integrating Age-, Pathology-, and Mortality-Related Changes” by Chui, Helena; Gerstorf, Denis; Hoppmann, Christiane A.; and Luszcz, Mary A. in Psychology and Aging. Published online October 26 2015 doi:10.1037/pag0000054
Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Old Age: Integrating Age-, Pathology-, and Mortality-Related Changes
Late life involves a variety of different challenges to well-being. This study extends and qualifies propositions drawn from the paradox of well-being in aging using 15-year longitudinal data on depressive symptoms from old and very old participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (Baseline N = 2,087; Mage = 78.69 years; range: 65–103 years; 49.40% women). We first examined age-related trajectories in depressive symptoms from young-old to oldest-old, taking into account (changes in) relevant correlates, pathology, and mortality; and, second, we investigated gender differences in these trajectories. Results revealed that age-related trajectories of depressive symptoms were predictive of mortality hazards. The unique predictive effects of both level of, and change in, depressive symptoms were independent of one another and held after taking into account education as well as changes in marital status, living arrangements, cognitive function, and illness burden. In addition, results indicated that depressive symptoms were elevated among participants suffering from arthritis, and increased with age more markedly in men than in women. In particular, the significant Age × Gender interaction indicated that the gender gap in depressive symptoms reduced from young-old to old-old and reversed in very old age when men showed more depressive symptoms than women. Qualifying the paradox of well-being in aging, findings demonstrated that depressive symptoms increased from young-old to oldest-old and suggest that age-, pathology-, and mortality-related changes should be examined in concert to advance our understanding of individual differences in depressive symptom trajectories in late life.
“Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Old Age: Integrating Age-, Pathology-, and Mortality-Related Changes” by Chui, Helena; Gerstorf, Denis; Hoppmann, Christiane A.; and Luszcz, Mary A. in Psychology and Aging. Published online October 26 2015 doi:10.1037/pag0000054