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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Do depressed older adults who attribute depression to "old age" believe it is important to seek care?

  • Author(s): Sarkisian, Catherine A
  • Lee-Henderson, Mary H
  • Mangione, Carol M
  • et al.

OBJECTIVE:To determine whether depressed older adults who attribute becoming depressed to "old age" rather than illness are more likely to believe it is not important to seek treatment for depression. DESIGN:Cross-sectional mailed survey. SETTING:Academically affiliated primary care physicians' network. PARTICIPANTS:Surveys were mailed to 588 patients age > or =65 years who were randomly identified from patient lists of 20 physicians. Surveys were returned by 429 patients (73%). Patients were eligible for this study if they scored > or =2 points on the 5-item Geriatric Depression Scale (n = 94) and were not missing key variables (final n = 90). MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:Of the 90 depressed patients, 48 (53%) believed that feeling depressed was very important to discuss with a doctor. In unadjusted analysis, older adults who did not believe it is very important to discuss feeling depressed with a doctor were more likely to attribute becoming depressed to aging (41% vs 17%; P =.012). In a logistic regression model adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, number of impairments in basic and instrumental activities of daily living, medical comorbidity, and physical (PCS-12) and mental (MCS-12) component summary scores from the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form-12, depressed older adults who attributed depression to aging had a 4.3 times greater odds than those who attributed depression to illness to not believe it is very important to discuss depression with a doctor (odds ratio [OR], 4.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3 to 14.5). CONCLUSIONS:Among older persons with depression, attributing feeling depressed to old age may be an important barrier to care seeking.

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