Old women got the blues

A new study finds that elderly women are more likely to suffer from depression than their male counterparts. A drag getting old, indeed.

By Carol Lloyd
Published February 7, 2008 6:45PM (EST)

Though we know older men are more likely to kill themselves, it appears that elderly women have the edge on feeling like crap and living through it. According to a new study reported via WebMD and published in Archives of General Psychiatry, elderly women are more likely to suffer significant symptoms of depression than their male counterparts, though they are less likely to die while depressed.

The findings surprised researchers from the Yale School of Medicine because women are more likely to receive medication and other treatment for depression. Of course, for researchers such findings naturally lead to ... more research. The researchers wonder if women don't respond to conventional treatment -- as in antidepressants don't work -- or if elderly women are treated less aggressively.

But the study prompts a host of other questions as well. Do women simply have less inhibitions about revealing details that suggest they are depressed? Are women biologically more likely to become depressive and stay depressed? (According to the National Institute for Mental Health, major depression affects twice as many women as men, regardless of age, socioeconomic status or race.)

If nothing else, it makes me wonder about the different experiences of aging for men and women. Old age often brings loneliness in the U.S., and I wonder if loneliness isn't harder for women, who have spent their lives more focused on social connections, than men, who may have put their abstract interests first. And maybe in a culture that accords old women so little respect, elderly women have a hell of a reason to be bummed!

Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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