Aging & Health A to Z
Causes & Symptoms
Research suggests that depression is linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. Depression may also run in families.
Depression that starts in later life is often associated with difficult life events or situations, such as:
- The death of a relative or friend
- The loss of a job
- Social isolation
- A hospitalization or placement in a nursing facility
- Chronic illness, disability, or other stresses.
Medical problems that can lead to depression are:
- Thyroid disorders
- Some vitamin deficiencies
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Heart disease
- Side effects of medications (such as drugs for high blood pressure or Parkinson’s disease, sedatives, corticosteroids, and hormones)
- Cancer and other major illnesses; long-term pain; and difficulty getting restful sleep. Usually, a combination of factors is involved.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Depression
Depression is associated with the following symptoms:
- Sad or depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy
- Substantial weight change or change in appetite
- Sleep problems (too little or too much sleep)
- Restlessness, agitation, or slowing of movements
- Less energy or more fatigue
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate
- Repeated thoughts of death or suicide.
If you have thoughts of suicide, a plan for suicide, or thoughts of harming yourself, immediately call:
- your healthcare professional,
- 911, OR
- a suicide hotline such as 1-800-SUICIDE.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012