Diagnosis and treatment of older adults with depression in primary care

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Aug 1;52(3):285-92. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01338-0.


This article provides an overview of current challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of depressed older adults in primary care and considers suggestions for clinicians, researchers, and policy makers to improve care for this population. Despite the enormous toll of depression on individuals and society and the availability of effective treatments, depressed older adults remain largely untreated or undertreated. They rarely see mental health professionals, but have relatively frequent contact with primary care providers. In primary care, the chronic and recurrent nature of depression and a number of patient, provider, and policy-related barriers interfere with effective depression treatment. Recent research suggests that improving care for individuals with late life depression will require education and engagement of older adults and their primary care providers as active partners in caring for depression. It will also require additional human resources and systematic models of care dedicated to proactively managing depression as a chronic illness. Finally, it will require training of mental health professionals to effectively collaborate with their colleagues in primary care in treating depressed older adults. Further improvement in depression care would likely result from the implementation of true parity for mental health treatments for older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care*