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Depression in seniors becoming more recognized

July 27, 2012

A growing number of seniors are being diagnosed and treated for depression, and while that may sound discouraging, experts say it's actually a step in the right direction. The increase in diagnoses indicates any stigma is being removed from seeking help and medical professionals are working toward addressing an issue that has long-threatened healthy senior living, The New York Times reports.

Still, there is some work to be done. Although more seniors are being treated, some experts have found that not all the methods are that effective. In particular, antidepressants have shown to have only a small impact, if any. Dr. Jürgen Unützer says the condition should be thought of as any other medical diagnosis.

"We should treat this more like other medical problems," he told the Times. "If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, we wouldn't just ask, 'How's it going?' We'd take your blood pressure or your blood glucose. We'd keep making changes."

One option that has proven successful is so-called collaborative care, where medical and healthcare professionals provide an integrated approach and refer patients to psychiatrists if the need arises.

Treating depression can also be difficult because sometimes the patient's symptoms can be difficult to recognize. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, about 5 million older adults have subsyndromal depression, which falls right below meeting the criteria for the disorder.