New research challenges the notion that older people are happier than younger people.
In the study, Australian researcher Dr. Helena Chui found people get more depressed from age 65 onwards.
The findings by Chui, a lecturer at the University of Bradford, have been published in the international journal Psychology and Aging. Chui’s conclusions build on a 15-year project observing over 2,000 older Australians living in the Adelaide area.
Previous studies have shown an increase in depressive symptoms with age but only until the age of 85. This is the first study to examine the issue beyond that age.
Researchers discovered both men and women taking part in the study reported increasingly more depressive symptoms as they aged. Initially, women reported more depressive symptoms than men. However, men showed a faster rate of increase in symptoms so that the difference in the genders was reversed at around the age of 80.
Factors that influenced the growing rate of depression include the onset of medical conditions, particularly chronic ones, and the approach of death.
Quality of life appears to be a significant factor as half of those in the study suffered with arthritis. For both men and women, this chronic condition was associated with more depressive symptoms than those without the disease.
“These findings are very significant and have implications for how we deal with old age,” Chui said. “It’s the first study to tell us depressive symptoms continue to increase throughout old age. We are in a period of unprecedented success in terms of people living longer than ever and in greater numbers and we should be celebrating this, but it seems that we are finding it hard to cope.
“It seems that we need to look carefully at the provision of adequate services to match these needs, particularly in the area of mental health support and pain management. Social policies and ageing-friendly support structures, such as the provision of public transport and access to health care services are needed to target the ‘oldest-old’ adults as a whole.”