Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don’t know about us may surprise you. Discover all the ‘Real Possibilities’

7 Things You Should Know About Depression

The bad news: Millions of Americans over age 65 struggle with undiagnosed depression, and their suicide rates are high. The good news: When depression is diagnosed, therapy works

3. Depression is pain

Literally. Depression has a number of physical symptoms such as low energy level and appetite suppression. These signs can also indicate serious medical problems such as heart disease, according to Bobo. "It's not just a psychological experience," he says. "Often, the physical symptoms are the ones that come to medical attention first even before feelings of morbid sadness."

Research published in the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes found that half of women diagnosed with depression also experienced physical pain; the more severe the pain, the more severe their depression.

To complicate matters, depression can be difficult to diagnose in people who experience physical, not emotional, symptoms. If depression is left untreated — which can happen if doctors are working to identify the cause of the aches and pains and not asking about possible emotional issues — Bobo warns, "It can worsen treatment outcomes and make recovery more difficult to achieve."

4. Hormones may play a role

Women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men, possibly because they're more at risk because of hormonal changes, including menopause. However, testosterone may also play a role in men's depression.

According to research published in the journal Drugs and Aging, the age-related decline in testosterone levels could lead to an increase in depressive symptoms in men. But there may be some potential good news: In 2011, researchers at Florida State University conducted four studies in which male rats were injected with testosterone. The hormone had the same effect as antidepressant medications, reversing the impact of depressive symptoms.

5. Depression increases the risk of stroke

Depression was linked to a more than twofold increase in stroke risk for women between the ages of 47 and 52, according to a study published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

"It's unclear why depression is so strongly linked to stroke … but it is thought that the body's inflammatory processes and their effects on blood vessels may play a part," says Caroline A. Jackson, Ph.D., researcher and epidemiologist in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland.

It's part of a growing body of research linking mental health to physical health, says Jackson. She encourages older adults with depression to seek medical help and maintain or adopt a healthy lifestyle to minimize their stroke risk.

Next page: Men, depression and suicide. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

VIDEO EXTRA

HOW TO HANDLE BACK PAIN: Back problems are among the most common medical conditions in the U.S. The numbers are staggering — and so is the pain.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

HEALTH BLOG

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% off eye exams and 30% off eyeglasses at Pearle Vision.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.

MOST POPULAR

Viewed

AARP BOOKSTORE

AARP Bookstore - woman reaches for book on bookshelf

VISIT THE HEALTH SECTION

Find titles on brain health, drug alternatives and losing weight. Do

FEATURED GROUPS

Social Security

How to strengthen Social Security for future generations. Discuss

Medicare & Insurance

Share health coverage information and experiences common to being age 50+. Join

Health Nuts

Share heart-smart recipes, fitness tips and stress relievers. Join