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Geriatric Depression

Geriatric Depression - What it is

​Geriatric depression is a mental and emotional disorder affecting older adults aged 65 years and over.

According to the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health, the prevalence of depression among the elderly in Singapore is around 5.5%.

Feelings of sadness and occasional ‘blue’ moods are normal. However, pervasive low mood is not a normal consequence of aging. Depression can impact quality of life and increases the risk of suicide if left untreated. Late life depression is associated with an increased risk of subsequently developing dementia.

Geriatric Depression - Symptoms

​Depression affects older people differently than younger people. Depression in older people is frequently confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the medication used to treat them. Depression often goes along with medical illnesses and disabilities and lasts longer in older adults.

Common symptoms of depression:
  • Sadness
  • Crying spells
  • Feelings of worthlessness/helplessness 
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Grumpiness/ irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Avoidance of people 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or things that once brought joy
  • Unexplained body aches and pains
  • Memory problems 

Geriatric Depression - How to prevent?

​If you are depressed, you may not feel like doing anything or seeing anybody. But isolation only makes depression worse, so you should limit the time you spend alone and try to connect with others. 

  1. Engage in meaningful social activities.
    • Join a senior activity group; it can help to reduce feelings of isolation.
  2. Engage in gentle physical exercise (e.g. walking, yoga, tai chi).
    • Group exercise programs prevent isolation and functional decline.
  3. Get some sunshine.
    • Don’t just stay at home all the time. Getting outside in the sun can brighten the mood.
  4. Find a new hobby or interest.
    • Consider taking care of a pet. They can provide great companionship for the elderly and reduce feelings of loneliness.
  5. Eat a well-balanced diet
    • Eating healthy is important for mental health. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy protein and limit highly processed foods. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help you feel more energetic and think clearly.
  6. Get enough sleep
    • Poor sleep can make depression worse. A better quality of sleep can be achieved by avoiding alcohol and caffeine, keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool.
Take a simple screening test for symptoms of depression on the Health Buddy app senior wellness module and learn some strategies to cope with early symptoms.

Treatment is available for depression. The two main forms of treatments include medication and talking therapy. So, talk to your doctor about your concerns and seek help. 

Geriatric Depression - Causes and Risk Factors

Biological, social and psychological risk factors all play a role in depression in older adults.

Biological risk factors:
  • Female gender 
  • Family history of depression 
  • Previous history of depression
  • Chronic physical illnesses, presence of chronic pain
  • Physical disability
  • Cognitive impairment 
Psychosocial risk factors:
  • Single/widowed/divorced
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of supportive social network
  • Lower socioeconomic status 
  • Stressful/traumatic life events (e.g. abuse or death of loved one)

Geriatric Depression - Diagnosis

Geriatric Depression - Treatments

Geriatric Depression - Preparing for surgery

Geriatric Depression - Post-surgery care

Geriatric Depression - Other Information

​At SKH, we have the SHINE (Senior's Health: Inspire, Navigate and Empower) Programme. You can read more about it here.

Care Resources and Caregiver Support
​Agency for Integrated Care (AIC)
​Dementia Singapore
​6377 0700
​Family Service Centre
​The Senior Helpline (by SAGE)
​Silver Ribbon
​6386 1928
​Workforce Singapore (WSG)
​6883 5885
​Centre for Seniors
6478 5015​
​Domestic Violence Specialist Centres
​6555 0390
6449 9088​
​Financial Assistance for the Needy
Helplines for Mental Health Crisis
​IMH Helpline
​6389 2222
​Samaritans of Singapore
​Information Technology/ Digital Support
​Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)
​6377 3800
​Vountering Opportunities
​Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
​6259 0802
​Council for Third Age (C3A)
​6478 5029

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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