Summary: Women over the age of 70 are more likely than men of the same age to report feeling symptoms of depression.
Source: Simon Fraser University
Depression affects up to one in four people but is often associated with young adults in the public consciousness.
And though the likelihood of Canadians having depressive symptoms decrease into mid-life, rates of depression creep up once more as people – especially women – enter their 70s, according to a new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Simon Fraser University researcher John Best and his team looked at data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) – a long-term study that follows more than 50,000 people between the ages of 45 and 85 – and tracked the number of reported depressive symptoms across age.
They found that people’s association with depression was linked with late life and that females were more likely to report depressive symptoms than males.
“We do see across this entire age span, 45 to 85, women reported greater depressive symptoms, but that separation between males and females is amplified the most in the 80s,” says Best.
Best says there’s no single reason why depression rates increase in late life, but older adults are known to be more likely to experience bereavement, failing health, becoming caregivers and social isolation.
His team hopes to study the myriad of factors in their follow-up work, but for now he says the findings can help shape the way we support older adults.
“Being aware that there is a likelihood that your older parent may be experience depressive systems as they get into their late 70s and 80s reinforces the importance of keeping older adults active mentally, physically, socially and perhaps spiritually as well,” he says. “My advice is to make sure they are maintaining the best social contacts possible and encouraging them to be as physically active as possible as well.”
Age and sex trends in depressive symptoms across middle and older adulthood: Comparison of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging to American and European cohorts
The literature suggests depressive symptoms differ in a non-linear fashion across adulthood and are more commonly reported in women as compared to men. Whether these trends are observed across countries in population-based cohorts is unclear.
Cross-sectional observational study of approximately 138,000 women and men between the ages of 45 and 95 from three population-based cohorts representing Canadian, European, and American populations. Age, gender, educational attainment and annual income were assessed in each cohort. Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale in the US and Canadian cohorts, and by the EURO-D in the European cohort.
Across all three cohorts, non-linear age trends and gender differences were observed in the report of depressive symptoms, independent from educational attainment and annual income effects. The non-linear age trends reflected a negative association between depressive symptoms and age during midlife and then a positive association in late life. Females reported greater depressive symptoms than males; however, an interaction between gender and age was also observed in the Canadian and European cohorts. Among Canadians, the gender differences were largest after age 70, whereas among Europeans, gender differences where largest among those approximately aged 60.
Limitations include: 1) the cross-sectional nature of the study, resulting in age differences potentially reflecting cohort effects rather than a developmental process; and 2) the use of different depressive symptoms measures across cohorts.
Characterization of depressive symptoms over mid and late adulthood in women and men provides insights into potential focal points for intervention and allocation of resources.