Depression is also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder or major depression. It is a medical illness whose consequences manifest through steady feeling sadness and lack of interest. It does affect how the person reacts, feels and thinks (Frederick, Snowden, & Steinman, 2008). Depression is a serious illness which can result to physical and emotional problems especially to ageing adults who often find it problematic to continue with their usual daily tasks and may at times develop a feeling that life is worthless and meaningless to them. It is accompanied by signs such as psychomotor retardation, social contact withdrawal, as well as vegetative conditions like insomnia and lack of appetite. Elderly adults who suffer from depression often experience many challenges in life, some of which are personal. This essay will examine various effects that elderly adults who suffer from depression are likely to undergo.
Depression is a debilitating illness which affects a patient’s ability to move on with their ordinary activities. Given that the elderly adults form most of the population in majority parts of the Western society, this kind of illness poses a big burden to the society (Kohrt, Malley, & Coggan, 2001). Economically, resources are diverted from otherwise development agendas to cater to the patients in terms of clinical healthcare. It is possible that a considerable social and economic burden is placed to society. Statistics show that depression prevalence amongst the elderly in the Western countries is approximately 10%, although there are suggestions that the level of depression cases which have not yet been detected and treated may be higher in this category. The indirect and direct costs linked with this kind of sickness to the elderly are thus possibly to be considerable. So far, use of economic analysis to conduct drug therapy in efforts to treat depression has been limited. In addition, economic studies regarding ascertainment of whether antidepressant drug therapy which purely concentrates on offering treatment to the aging adults is cost effective are no longer conducted (Hagberg, Graves, & Limacher, 2009). It is costly to conduct detection, non- compliance costs, as well as benefits and indirect costs. All these place a large burden not only to the families of the patients but also the government at large.
According to Blumenthal, Schocken, Needles & Hindle (2002), clinical depression amongst the elderly is very common but this does not indicate it is normal. A study conducted in America shows that depression in late- life affects around 6 million people in America, aged from 65 years and above (Blumenthal, Schocken, Needles & Hindle, 2002). However, it is only 10% of that number which receives depression treatment. Depression impacts aged people in a different manner compared to the younger people in that, in the elderly people, depression is often accompanied by other disabilities and medical illnesses which lasts longer. Previous research has established that depressions amongst the aged often expose them to higher risks of contacting cardiac diseases (Katon, 2011). It is established that depression doubles a patient’s risk of contacting cardiac diseases thereby increasing their chances of death from such illnesses. Depression also reduces the ability of an elderly person to rehabilitate. Studies on depression patients who undergo home nursing have shown that the possibility of death from other illnesses is substantially increased by depression. It is therefore important to ensure that an elderly person suffering from depression is evaluated and proper treatment is done.
Another effect of depression on elderly men is that, it increases the chances of suicide especially on white men. Previous research has established that the rate of suicide in individuals aged between 80 to 84 years is significantly higher than twice the one of the general individuals. It is for this reason that The National Institute of Mental Health terms depression in individuals age 66 and above a major problem to the public health. As such, suicidal cases are more prevalent from this age bracket (Katon, 2011). This is attributed to the fact that depression results to lack of self esteem and therefore the patient considers life to be meaningful.
Additionally, growing age is usually accompanied by decline of systems of social support due to factors like death of siblings or a spouse, residence relocation, or retirement. As a result of changes in circumstances of elderly people and the reality that such people usually slow down, family and doctors may fail to get the signs of depression. Consequently, there is often a delay of effective treatment and this forces many elderly individuals to unnecessarily endure with depression.
A number of studies by previous researchers especially medics has revealed a number of physical impacts of depression. Depression causes numerous effects on the body of elderly patients. First, the patient experiences inadequate urge for sleep which is commonly termed as insomnia. When sleep occurs, at times the regular sleep patterns are broken frequently because the person feels restless at the middle of sleep. There is a tendency of the person to wake up early and go to bed late. Another physical impact is that the person starts forgoing food, hence weight fluctuations (Kohrt, Malley, & Coggan, 2001). In other scenarios, they may start to over eat or engage in less physical tasks which results in gain in weight. Another physical effect is the reduction of libido. The patient’s urge for sex goes down, with the rate of ejaculation so down.
A report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows the projections of the global burden caused by depression, would be ranked second after heart disease by the year 2021. By 1997, it was the concern of WHO that majority of disabilities witnessed in the world were directly attributable to depression. That view was also confirmed in 2007 by an epidemiological study that was led by WHO (Nieman, 2005). In that study, comparison was made between the burden with chronic illnesses like arthritis, angina, diabetes and asthma and that of depression. In almost a quarter of one million elderly patients in sixty nations, after factoring in health conditions and socioeconomic factors, depression was found to have the greatest impact as far as worsening health is concerned. The report thus recommended that depression be an urgent priority of public health.
Medical practitioners have described depression as a kind of sickness which is recurrent and chronic in nature, lessens social adjustments, impairs life of family, and places a heavy burden on the community. The characteristic of depression having a nature of long term recurrence amplifies both its economic burden and societal impact. It kind of blights the quality of lifestyle and relationships of both the person affected and the individuals they stay with. Depressed persons often find it hard to take part in social activities like work and family life. Depression is linked with high costs of health care and productivity loss, more than other chronic diseases (Nieman, et al., 2003). This results to stress on family members and of course reduced earning especially if the patient was engaged in productive work.
The poor health due to depression is linked with significant poor quality of lifestyles and disability for both corers and sufferers. Disability interferes with the productivity and activities of the affected person and the effects are more than those associated with chronic illnesses like diabetes, arthritis, back pain or hypertension. Estimates indicate that nearly 17% of all mental illness associated disabilities in the world is due to depressive disorders. Depression imposes a big economic burden and is linked with increased spending in all healthcare sectors.it is therefore important that government comes up with a clear and effective policy measures to resolve the problem of depression amongst the elderly people since its underlying effects are alarming.
Blumenthal, J.A., Schocken, D.D., Needles, T.L., & Hindle, P. (2002). Psychological and physiological effects of physical conditioning on the elderly. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 26, 505-510.
Hagberg, J.M., Graves, J.E., & Limacher, M. (2009). Cardiovascular responses of 70- to 79- year-old men and women to exercise training. Journal of Applied Psychology, 66, 2589-2594.
John Frederick, Mark Snowden, & Lesley Steinman. (2008). Treating Depression in Older Adults: Challenges to Implementing the Recommendations of an Expert Panel. Prev Chronic Dis.
Katon, W. (2011). Depression: relationship to somatization and chronic medical illness. J Clin Psychiatry. 1984;45:4-11.
Kohrt, W.M., Malley, M.T., & Coggan, A.R. (2001). Effects of gender, age, and fitness level On response of VO2max to training in 60-71-year-olds. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 2004-2011.
Nieman, D.C., Warren, B.J., Dotson, R.G., Butterworth, D.E., & Henson, D.A. (2003). Physical activity, psychological well-being, and mood state in elderly women. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 1, 22-33.
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