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Older Women More Likely to Suffer Depression

Study found their male peers were better off in this regard

TUESDAY, Feb. 5, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Older women are more likely than older men to become and remain depressed, Yale researchers report.

The study began in 1998 with 754 people aged 70 and older. The participants were assessed at the start of the study, and again at five 18-month intervals after that.

During the study, 269 (35.7 percent) of the participants suffered depression at some point. Of those, 48 (17.8 percent) were depressed at two consecutive follow-up points, 30 (11.2 percent) at three consecutive points, 17 (6.3 percent) at four consecutive points, and 12 (4.5 percent) at all five follow-up points.

More women than men were depressed at each 18-month follow-up, and women were more likely than men to be depressed at subsequent time points, according to the study, which appears in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"Adjusting for other demographic characteristics, women had a higher likelihood of transitioning from non-depressed to depressed and a lower likelihood of transitioning from depressed to non-depressed or death," the study authors wrote.

The findings were consistent throughout the length of the study and provide strong evidence that depression is more common in older women than in older men, the researchers said. This is surprising, they added, because women are more likely than men to receive treatment for depression.

"Whether women are treated less aggressively than men for late-life depression or are less likely to respond to conventional treatment is not known, but should be the focus of future research," the authors wrote. "In addition, nearly 40 percent of the depressed participants in this study were depressed during at least two consecutive time points, highlighting the need to initiate and potentially maintain antidepressant treatment after resolution of the initial depressive episode."

More information

Mental Health America has more about depression.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Feb. 5, 2008
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