Objectives: The objective of this study was to examine the prevalence of and the association between depressive symptoms and loneliness in relation to age and sex among older people (65-80 years) and to investigate to what extent those who report depressive symptoms had visited a health care professional and/or used antidepressant medication.
Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a Swedish sample randomized from the total population in the age group 65-80 years (n = 6659). Chi square tests and logistic regression analyses were conducted.
Results: The data showed that 9.8% (n = 653) reported depressive symptoms and 27.5% reported feelings of loneliness. More men than women reported depressive symptoms, and the largest proportion was found among men in the age group 75-80 years. An association between the odds to have a depressive disorder and loneliness was found which, however, decreased with increasing age. Of those with depressive symptoms a low proportion had visited a psychologist (2.9%) or a welfare officer (4.2%), and one in four reported that they use antidepressant medication. Of those who reported depressive symptoms, 29% considered that they had needed medical care during the last three months but had refrained from seeking, and the most common reason for that was negative experience from previous visits.
Conclusion: Contrary to findings in most of the studies, depressive symptoms were not more prevalent among women. The result highlights the importance of detecting depressive symptoms and loneliness in older people and to offer adequate treatment in order to increase their well-being.
Keywords: aged; depressive disorder; loneliness; prevalence; treatment.