Prevalence and predictors of depression in populations of elderly: a review

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To offer an update on prevalence and predictors of old age depression in populations of elderly Caucasians.


The databases MEDLINE and Psychinfo were searched and relevant literature from 1993 onwards was reviewed.


The prevalence of major depression ranges from 0.9% to 9.4% in private households, from 14% to 42% in institutional living, and from 1% to 16% among elderly living in private households or in institutions; and clinically relevant depressive symptom ‘cases’ in similar settings vary between 7.2% and 49%. The main predictors of depressive disorders and depressive symptom cases are: female gender, somatic illness, cognitive impairment, functional impairment, lack or loss of close social contacts, and a history of depression.


Depression is frequent in populations of elderly. Methodological differences between the studies hinder consistent conclusions about geographical and cross-cultural variations in prevalence and predictors of depression. Improved comparability will provide a basis for consistent conclusions.

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