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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 39 (1997) 4, 294 - 308

Short report

The prevalence and risk factors associated with major and minor depression in later life

A.T.F. Beekman, D.J.H. Deeg, T.G. van Tilburg, R.A. Schoevers, J.H. Smit, C. Hooijer, W. van Tilburg

Community based findings regarding the prevalence of late life depression in The Netherlands are scarce. Internationally there is no consensus on basic issues, such as how depression in later life should be defined and measured, and consequently, about the prevalence of depression in later life. By defining and measuring depression at both a syndrome and diagnostic level of caseness in one study, these differences could be resolved. In a large (3056 subjects) random sample of older (55-85) adults, living in three regions of The Netherlands, it appeared that depression was a common disorder (prevalence 14,9%). However, only in a minority of cases the symptoms fulfilled rigorously applied DSM-III criteria for major depression (prevalence 2,0%). The prevalence of all other depressive disorders (minor depression) was 12,9%. Comparing major to minor depression showed large differences in distribution of riskfactors. It appeared that major depression is more often an exacerbation of a chronic-intermittent mood disorder, with roots in long-standing personal vulnerability factors. Minor depression is more often a reaction to the stresses, commonly experienced in later life.