A recent review in Preventing Chronic Disease reported that about 5% to 15% of community-dwelling older adults (60+ y.o.) suffer from depression, which results in functional impairment and is possibly associated with increased mortality rates through suicide and complications of cardiac disease. As such, it is increasingly recognized as a significant public health problem in that population.

To address this problem, a panel was convened by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, one of eight centers within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After systematically reviewing 97 studies, “the researcher-practitioner expert panel strongly recommended interventions based on the depression care management (DCM) model and recommended cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as treatment for depression in older adults.”

The report discussed strategies to implement its recommendations. It noted that many CBT practitioners work in specialty mental health settings and are not in contact with primary care or community-based programs for older adults. A further obstacle is that many older adults are reluctant to go to mental health specialists.

The panel concluded that partnerships among researchers, health care providers, and policy makers will be necessary to overcome the obstacles to the treatment of depression in older adults.

Study authors: M. Snowden, L. Steinman, J. Frederick