- What is depression?
- What are the different forms of depression?
- What are the basic signs and symptoms of depression?
- What causes depression in women?
- What illnesses often coexist with depression in women?
- How does depression affect adolescent girls?
- How does depression affect older women?
- How is depression diagnosed and treated?
- What efforts are underway to improve treatment?
- How can I help a friend or relative who is depressed?
- How can I help myself if I am depressed?
- Where can I go for help?
- What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
How does depression affect older women?
As with other age groups, more older women than older men experience depression, but rates decrease among women after menopause.13 Evidence suggests that depression in post-menopausal women generally occurs in women with prior histories of depression. In any case, depression is NOT a normal part of aging.
The death of a spouse or loved one, moving from work into retirement, or dealing with a chronic illness can leave women and men alike feeling sad or distressed. After a period of adjustment, many older women can regain their emotional balance, but others do not and may develop depression. When older women do suffer from depression, it may be overlooked because older adults may be less willing to discuss feelings of sadness or grief, or they may have less obvious symptoms of depression. As a result, their doctors may be less likely to suspect or spot it.
For older adults who experience depression for the first time later in life, other factors, such as changes in the brain or body, may be at play. For example, older adults may suffer from restricted blood flow, a condition called ischemia. Over time, blood vessels become less flexible. They may harden and prevent blood from flowing normally to the body's organs, including the brain. If this occurs, an older adult with no family or personal history of depression may develop what some doctors call "vascular depression." Those with vascular depression also may be at risk for a coexisting cardiovascular illness, such as heart disease or a stroke.24