What you need to know about older people and depression

Posted on Wed, 08/08/2018 by Dr Anitha Howard, Consultant Psychiatrist in the Department of Old Age Psychiatry

Depression can affect older people differently from younger people but it can be treated. Depression can also be common in patients who are admitted to hospital for a physical reason. 

What are the symptoms? 

People can feel low in mood and be tearful, most of the time for at least two weeks. Depression can affect appetite and sleep; some people find it hard to get off to sleep or wake up early in the morning or feel tired, even if they have slept.

People can lose interest in their hobbies, activities or visitors if they are in hospital. Depression can affect motivation to do things like your housework or activities on the ward. Occasionally, people with depression can be snappy or irritable or have hallucinations (like hearing voices that nobody else can hear). 

Sometimes, when people are depressed, they can feel that there is no point going on and wish they were dead.

In older people, depression can affect memory and occasionally it can be so bad that people may worry that they are developing a dementia. 

What can you do? 

If you or someone you care about has these symptoms and are worried about depression, talk to your GP. If you or someone you are worried about is in hospital, talk to a member of staff on the ward.

What can we do? 

In the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, we have a dedicated Older Persons’ Mental Health Liaison Team that can help diagnose and manage depression. In the community, we have Consultant Psychiatrists, Community Psychiatric Nurses, Psychologists and support workers who can help treat, manage and support people with depression.

Further information.

There is a lot of information about depression and how it can be treated. Here are some links, if you would like to find out more.

MindEd for older people

This is an interactive, online resource for older people and their families that cover a whole range of mental illnesses including depression.


The Royal College of Psychiatrists

The Royal College of Psychiatrists produces a range of information leaflets on depression, medication that can be used and talking treatments. There is also a useful video for older people worried about depression.



Mind is a charity that can provide information and support for a range of mental health problems including depression.

Call us on 0191 482 0000

In emergencies dial 999 / Non-emergencies dial 111

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