Prevalence and gender differences in late-life depression: a population-based study

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;22(4):370-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2012.08.015. Epub 2013 Mar 15.


Objective: The worldwide phenomenon of an aging population combined with the increasing prevalence of depression in late life are issues that need to be addressed. This study aims to estimate the frequency of depression and subthreshold depression occurring in a sample of cognitively well-functioning, community-dwelling, older Italian adults and to investigate sociodemographic and clinical correlates of depression, exploring gender differences.

Methods: We used a cross-sectional analyses of survivors in a population-based study (the Faenza Project) that included 359 subjects aged 74 years and older (49.3% women). A modified version of Cambridge Examination for Mental Disorders of Elderly Persons-Revised was administered to all participants. Prevalence rates of depression and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated according to International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision criteria. Statistical analyses were implemented to describe sociodemographic and clinical features associated with depression. Odds ratios were estimated by multivariate logistic regression, and the dependant variable was any type of depression.

Results: Overall prevalence of depression was 25.1% (95% CI: 20.6-29.6), with no evidence of gender difference. Prevalence of mild, moderate, and severe depression was 16.4% (95% CI: 12.6-20.2), 7.5% (95% CI: 4.8-10.2), and 1.1 (95% CI: -0.4-2.6), respectively. A rate of 5.6% of the population complained of subthreshold depressive symptoms. After age 81, depression occurrence decreased as age increased. The association between depression and functional measures, such as primary activity, mobility, and disability in performing household chores, were stronger in men than in women. Similarly, severely disabling conditions like stroke were more strongly associated with depression in men than in women.

Conclusion: Our data suggest a disparity between men and women regarding the impact of depression on everyday life. Specific gender differences need to be taken into account for the evaluation of the depression-related burden in late life.

Keywords: Depression; gender differences; late life; population based.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Participation*
  • Social Support*