Each year the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Health Day, highlighting a current, top-of-the-list global health issue.

In recent years, World Health Day focused on infectious diseases, hypertension, diabetes and food safety. The theme for 2017 was “Depression: Let’s Talk.”

According to the WHO experts, depression is the leading cause of poor health and disability worldwide. More than 300 million people are living with the condition, which is characterized by persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, and loss of interest in activities that once brought a person joy. WHO experts say depression increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, substance abuse and suicide.

Older adults are at a higher risk of depression. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that for seniors can be worsened by poor nutrition and inactivity, and stressful life events such as the loss of a spouse, poor health, chronic pain—even retirement. Certain common medications that seniors take can worsen depression. And recent research suggests that loneliness and social isolation are a top cause of depression among seniors.

Some seniors believe that depression is “just a part of growing older.” But it isn’t. If you or an older loved one is experiencing the symptoms of depression, talk to the doctor. Depression is treatable! Treatment might include counseling, a support group, treating underlying health conditions and in some cases, antidepressant medications. If more intensive treatment is required, Alden can assist you or your loved one on the road to recovery through our structured, holistic Behavioral Health Program. Alden has a program that is right for you—we offer single-gender and coed living environments at five locations. Please contact Jennifer Stelter at 773-315-9224 or click here for more information.

Lifestyle changes also can make a tremendous difference. Improved nutrition, physical activity and spending more time with others all provide meaningful mood boost. And depression is a possible side effect of some common medications seniors take, so the doctor or pharmacist should review all prescription and nonprescription drugs a depressed person takes.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. The WHO reports that fear of stigma can stand in the way of accessing evaluation and treatment. Says WHO expert Dr. Shekhar Saxena, “For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.”

Source: IlluminAge reporting on materials from the World Health Organization.

The information in this article is not intended to take the place of your healthcare provider’s advice. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor right away.