But depression doesn’t only affect those between the ages of 37 and 55. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicates that nearly two million of the 34 million Americans ages 65 and older also suffer from depression. While the reasons for depression in older adults range from its concurrence with other medical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, to the isolated lifestyle many of them lead, the result of their chronic depression can be deadly. Older adults are disproportionately likely to commit suicide, with the highest rate occurring in white men age 85 and older.

Malone states that while depression may be prevalent among baby boomers, it is the ongoing effect of the condition throughout their lives that is cause for proper treatment now.

“Unfortunately, depression is often undetected or misdiagnosed. Recent findings indicate that many older adults who commit suicide have visited a primary care physician very close to the time of their suicide: 20 percent on the same day, 40 percent within one week, and 70 percent within one month of the suicide,” Malone says. “These numbers are startling, and gives us great cause to address the needs of those baby boomers newly diagnosed with major depression.”

A Need to Understand Depression

According to Robert Neil Butler, M.D., president and CEO of the International Longevity Center and professor of geriatrics at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, depression needs a lot more study—and research dollars—so that it may be understood better by depressed patients and the doctors who treat them. While Butler’s main emphases are the needs of the elderly, he indicates the fact that baby boomers will soon be elderly themselves is reason enough to gain an understanding of their depression.

“Why is there such a striking gender difference and a high rate of suicide among those depressed? These are topics that need studied, but more importantly, we need to educate doctors on the signs and symptoms of depression so that it may be diagnosed and treated appropriately,” contends Butler.