GPs stuggle to diagnose depression in elderly, study suggests

GPs find it more difficult to diagnose depression accurately in the elderly than in other patients, according to a study.

The researchers said this could be because older patients are either reluctant to volunteer psychological or emotional symptoms or believe that such problems are a normal part of life.

The study also found that GPs were less likely to enquire about symptoms of depression in older people.

The study’s authors wrote: ‘Health professionals working in primary care should have a higher index of suspicion for older people given the higher prevalence of depression in this population’.

The researchers undertook a meta-analysis to compare the accuracy of diagnoses for those over the age of 60 with those under it.

At a depression prevalence rate of 17% (typical of an urban area), the study estimates that 73% of over 60s will be correctly diagnosed, compared with 79% of under 60s.

GPs correctly identified a greater proportion of older depressed individuals (47% compared to 40% of under 60s), but failed to rule out depression in a higher proportion of cases for the elderly (79% vs. 85%).

According to the study’s authors, this means a large proportion of elderly people are being falsely diagnosed with depression. They estimate that in an area with 17% prevalence, 18% of over 60s would be falsely diagnosed as depressed, compared with a 12% false positive rate in the under 60s.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus