Depression and mood disorders

Depression can be a serious and debilitating as a physical illness.  While depression can be treated, less than half of those experiencing depressive symptoms seek help. Depression affects about 10% of Australians aged 65 years or over and is currently the leading cause of disability in Australia. The long-held view that depression in older people is often a natural part of the ageing process must be challenged and people with depressive symptoms are encouraged to reach out for help.

Our researchers have made progress in understanding some of the genes involved in depression.  They have pinpointed a polymorphic gene that is able to determine the risk of depression in older men. They have also discovered the sequence of the proteins involved in cell function, and are aware of hormones that contribute to cell survival.

Helping identify risk factors for depression makes an earlier response to depression possible and hopefully this translates into alleviating pain and suffering for those affected by depression and their families. It is distressing for a family to watch a loved one, friend or colleague, deteriorate unnecessarily due to depression.

Key findings:

  • Our researchers have found that not all older people who seek depression treatment respond well to current depression treatment. 
  • Exploring ways to improve current methods of depression treatment by vitamins and modifiable lifestyle changes.  But we still have a lot of work to do before we are in a position to make a recommendation about what to use and what not to use.
  • Classifying and addressing depression risk factor
  • Educating General Practitioners on how to identify and treatment  older people  with depression
  • Showed that people treated with vitamins B6, B9 and B12 and an antidepressant had lower relapse rates over one year than those treated with placebo the antidepressant.
  • Research has confirmed that people with severe mental disorders who reach older age have lower life expectancy compared with their peers.The study found that hazardous lifestyle choices, suboptimal access to health care, poor compliance with treatments, and greater severity of medical comorbidities all contributed to increase mortality.
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