Depression can strike at any age, but causes can differ. One important risk factor: those who’ve experienced depression earlier in life are more likely to develop it as an adult. Depression in youth can stem from family dynamics, social pressures, or life events. As you age, those external factors change again.
Depression as you age
There are different types of depression, with different degrees of severity, symptoms and risk factors. There is no single cause, and even symptoms change as people get older – which means adult depression is often missed or left untreated.
Some possible risk factors include:
- a stressful situation
- living with a serious or chronic illness, or disability
- ongoing stress – like caring for a parent with a chronic illness
- changing homes, or being moved to a care facility
While these risk factors can stack as people age, a Statistics Canada study in 1999 found a majority of seniors were satisfied with their emotional health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that can be found in children and teens, but is typically seen in those over 20. It affects an estimated 1 in 10 Canadians in some form, and impacts more women than men.
What is it? The Canadian Mental Health Association says SAD is thought to be the impact of changing lighting – in winter or summer – impacting our body’s natural rhythm.
The CMHA says that with electricity, we no longer wake up with the sun and sleep in the dark – but that doesn’t mean our bodies don’t react. As days get shorter or longer, our bodies can get out of sync with our regular schedule. CMHA notes that other research shows that this can impact the way our brains regulate sleep, mood and appetite.
A key indicator of SAD is experiencing the same feelings two years in a row.
Watching for symptoms of depression
We all have times where we feel sad or even depressed – it’s very normal. When those feelings linger and prevent you from enjoying activities you would normally like, check with a professional.
In teenagers, changes because of hormones and life events can mask the symptoms of depression. Depression in adults, they can hide behind other health issues or be written off as personality quirks or “just another part of aging”.
Some symptoms of depression in adults might include:
- changes in diet or weight
- slowed reactions
- changes in motivation or energy
- trouble sleeping – or oversleeping
- changes in activity level (either up or down)
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- problems concentrating
- recurring thoughts of death or suicide
People over 65 in particular are disproportionately likely to die by suicide – getting appropriate treatment, at any age, is important. If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about might have adult depression, please contact us for more information.