Background: Various studies support the notion that the clinical picture of depression in the oldest old differs from that in younger elderly. Moreover, withstanding the serious negative effects of depression on well being and functioning, the detection rate of depression in several medical settings is low. Methods: Prevalence of depression, correlates and the rate of recognition by general practitioners were assessed in an 85-year-old community-based population. The GDS-S was applied in 500 participants with a MMSE >18, from a representative sample of 599 community based 85-year-old subjects. Demographic data, daily functioning, health correlates, use of medication and recognition of depression were recorded in home visits and from the general practitioner and pharmacists registers. Results: The prevalence of depression, as measured with a GDS-S score of 5 points or more, was 15.4%, which is comparable to previous studies. No demographic factors were correlated with depression. Perceived health, loneliness, impaired mobility, cognitive decline and functional disability were major correlates of depression. From the participants who were seen by their general practitioner, 25% were recognised as depressed. Antidepressive pharmacotherapy was almost nonexistent. Limitations: Formal diagnosis of depression was not available. The data were collected crossectionally. Conclusions: Depression is highly prevalent in the oldest old and strongly associated with functional disability and cognitive impairment. It is important to enhance recognition of depression in community based oldest old as a first step to possible interventions.