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Am J Epidemiol. 1983 Feb;117(2):173-85.

Prevalence of depression and its correlates in older adults.


Depression was studied in a community sample of 962 males and 1555 females aged 55 years and over living in Kentucky in 1981. The sample was representative of the population in Kentucky in that age group and quite similar to that US population. The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale was used as a measure of depression, and 13.7% of the males and 18.2% of the females were at or above a previously established cutpoint of 20 for adults over age 55 years. Significant relationships to depression were found in both sexes for age, education, income, housing quality, marital status, and health. For females, the age-depression relationship was not linear. By far the strongest relationship was with self-reported physical health. Significant proportions of those with self-reported kidney or bladder disease, heart trouble, lung trouble, hardening of the arteries, and stroke were above the depression cutpoint. For those conditions, physicians could expect high levels of concomitant depression in about one fourth of males and at least one third of females. These levels of depression were not found for those with high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, cancer, or diabetes. Over half of the sample reported taking prescribed medication and over half had needed a physician's care in the previous six months. Only 3.9% of the males and 3.2% of the females admitted to needing help for mental health problems. Thus, older adults with depression would probably be more likely to seek help from physicians than from services or professionals with explicit mental health labels.

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