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Addressing depression: the silent killer among seniors

Introduction

More than two million of the 34 million Americans age 65+ (“seniors”) suffer from some form of depression. Compared to the average American, seniors are more likely to be on an antidepressant. Seniors with depressive symptoms have roughly 50% higher healthcare costs than non-depressed seniors (1). Depression increases your risk of heart disease by 50% (2). Depression significantly increases your chance of having a stroke, dying from stroke, and developing heart failure (3, 4).

Risk factors for depression include death of a spouse and chronic disease. One-third of widows/widowers meet criteria for depression in the first month after the death of their spouse, and half of these individuals remain clinically depressed after one year (5). Symptoms of clinical depression can be triggered by other chronic illnesses common in later life, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD, also called Alzheimer’s dementia), Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer and arthritis (5).

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