Objective: To offer an update on prevalence and predictors of old age depression in populations of elderly Caucasians.
Method: The databases MEDLINE and Psychinfo were searched and relevant literature from 1993 onwards was reviewed.
Results: 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.
Conclusion: 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.