What Causes Depression In Aging Adults?


The Many Challenges of Aging

Growing old is not just a physical process, but also a mental one. The majority of the elderly population experiences stressful or traumatic life events and transitions, which is completely normal. However, these events can be difficult to navigate and can stir up deep seated emotions that can easily lead to depression if not handled correctly. When try to understand the mental health in your own life, or in the life of a loved one, it helps to take preventative measures against depression and recognize the contributing factors. 

Some common life events that can potentially be triggering for depression: 

The Passing of Friends and Family

As we age, so do our friends and family. At a certain point, nature takes it's course and we being to lose those who are closest to us. Grieving is a natural part of loss, but some never feel relief from this prolonged period of intense sadness and eventual transition into a depressed state.

Health Problems

A decline in health is inevitable as we age. Many aging adults experience chronic or life threatening disease. Diagnosis' like Diabetes, Alzheimers, Cancer, Parkinsons have been determined to be risk factors for depression.

Transitioning to Retirement

After working for so long, employment can become a main component of ones identity. A career provides people with a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and social network. When adults transition to retirement, it is common for them to miss the social and cognitive stimulation that was given to them from working. This sudden life transition can result in social withdrawal and isolation, which are contributing signs of depression. 

It's a normal part of life to experience a roller coaster ride of emotions after these difficult changes to our lives. Normally, as we adjust to the changes, these emotional feelings dissipate. If these feelings continue to occur or even worsen to the extent that they are having a negative impact on your daily life, it could be possibly mean depression. These symptoms are likely to continue until they receive the proper treatment from a professional. 

Are pharmaceuticals having an impact?

Certain pharmaceuticals have been shown to increase one’s likelihood of depression. In fact, depression is a common side effect in many cases. If you have noticed a shift in yourself or an aging loved one, and you know medication is involved, it could be an active source of a drug induced depression.

Some common drugs that have been shown to cause drug-induced depression are:

  • Sleeping pills 
  • Steroids (i.e. prednisone) 
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs (i.e. Lipitor) 
  • Blood pressure medications 
  • Beta-blockers (i.e. Lopressor) 
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • ACE inhibitors 

      If several medications are being taken, it increases the risk of depression as a side effect. Be sure to discuss any signs or symptoms you might be experiencing with your doctor. 

    If you suspect that the depression is caused by life transitions or medication, talk therapy services may be helpful. Talk therapy will allow you to navigate and understand the inner workings of your depressed state with a trained mental health professional who can assist you in overcoming it.