Depression affects more than 19 million Americans every year, regardless of age, race, or gender.  While depression is not a normal part of the aging process, there is a strong likelihood of it occurring when other physical health conditions are present.  For example, nearly a quarter of the 600,000 people who experience a stroke in a given year will experience clinical depression. 1  Unfortunately, symptoms of depression are often overlooked and untreated when they coincide with other medical illnesses or life events that commonly occur as people age (e.g., loss of loved ones).  However, clinical depression is never a “normal” response; it is a serious medical illness that should be treated at any age.


Co-occurring Illnesses


Healthcare Costs



Fortunately, clinical depression is a very treatable illness.  More than 80% of all people with depression can be successfully treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. 8

Older Adult Attitudes Toward Depression

According to a Mental Health America survey on attitudes and beliefs about clinical depression:


1. National Institute of Mental Health: “Co-occurrence of Depression With Stroke Fact Sheet.”

2. National Institute of Mental Health: “Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Fact Sheet.”

3. National Institute of Mental Health: “Depression Shares Symptoms With Other Medical Conditions.” 

4. National Institute of Mental Health. “The Many Dimensions of Depression in Women: Women at Risk,”

5. Unutzer, J., “Depressive symptoms and the cost of health services in HMO patients aged 65 years and older,” JAMA 277;20 (1997).

6. Olfson, M., Pincus, H.A., “Outpatient mental health care in nonhospital settings: distribution of patients across provider groups,” American Journal of Psychiatry 153 (1996):1353-1356.

7. Sadovsky, R., “Prevalence and recognition of depression in elderly patients,” American Academy of Family Physicians, 57;5 (1998):1096.

8. National Institute of Mental Health:  “Depression: Treat it. Defeat it.” 

9. National Mental Health Association, “American Attitudes about Clinical Depression and its Treatment,” (March 27, 1996).