Review of community prevalence of depression in later life

A. T.F. Beekman*, J. R.M. Copeland, M. J. Prince

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Background. Despite considerable interest, there is no consensus regarding the prevalence of depression in later life. Aims. To assess the prevalence of late-life depression in the community. Method. A systematic review of community-based studies of the prevalence of depression in later life (55+). Literature was analysed by level of caseness at which depression was defined and measured. Results. Thirty-four studies eligible for inclusion were found. The reported prevalence rates very enormously (0.4-35%). Arranged according to level of caseness, major depression is relatively rare among the elderly (weighted average prevalence 1.8%), minor depression is more common (weighted average prevalence 9.8%), while all depressive syndromes deemed clinically relevant yield an average prevalence of 13.5%. There is consistent evidence for higher prevalence rates for women and among older people living under adverse socio-economic circumstances. Conclusions. Depression is common in later life. Methodological differences between studies preclude firm conclusions about cross-cultural and geographical variation. Improving the comparability of epidemiological research constitutes an important step forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-311
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue numberAPR.
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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