Older women are more prone to depression than older men but they are less likely to die depressed, indicating that women live longer with depression than men.
The authors say major depression affects about one to two percent of older adults living in the community but as many as 20 per cent experience symptoms of depression.
It is unclear why the symptoms of depression affect older women more than older men.
“We were surprised by this finding because women are more likely to receive medications or other treatment for depression,” said the study’s lead author, Lisa Barry
“Further studies are needed to determine whether women are treated less aggressively than men for late-life depression, or if women are less likely to respond to conventional treatment.”
The researchers evaluated a group of 754 individuals aged 70 and older between 1998 and 2005.
Participants were asked to provide demographic information, take cognitive tests and report any medical conditions at the start of the study and at follow-up assessments conducted every 18 months.
At the follow-up sessions, the team screened participants for depressive symptoms – such as lack of appetite, feeling sad or sleep problems – exhibited during the previous week.
During the study, 35.7 percent of the participants were depressed at some point.
Of those, 17.8 percent remained depressed during two consecutive time points, 11.2 percent at three time points, 6.3 percent at four points and 4.5 percent at all five time points.
Women had a higher likelihood of going from being ‘non-depressed’ to being depressed, and a lower likelihood of transitioning from being depressed to being non-depressed, or dying.