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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 35 (1993) 3

New research

Depression in the community elderly

A.T.F. Beekman, W. van Tilburg, D. Deeg

Research regarding the prevalence, incidence and the course of depression in the community-dwelling elderly is reviewed in this article. Major depression appears to be a rare disease, whereas depressive syndromes are common.

Very little is known about the significance of these mild depressions in the elderly. The course of both mild and major depression is probably unfavourable in many cases.

Aging is commonly associated with an increase in depression. Recent research contradicts a simple relation between aging and depression. More consistent are the effects of gender, socio-economic variables, physical functioning an social resources. Physical functioning appears to be the most important of these. There is a lack of research on the significance of personality-factors on depression in the elderly.

Longitudinal studies in which changes in depressive phenomena are studied in the context of other aspects of functioning are necessary to determine the clinical significance of mild depressive syndromes.

The adequacy of current psychiatric classification systems is questioned. The lack of intervention-studies regarding mild depression in the elderly precludes definite answers to this question.