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More emergency admissions for depressed older men

Older men suffering depression are at higher risk of hospitalisation for non-psychiatric conditions, according to a recent study.

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, findings from the study highlight the need for the introduction of strategies to identify and manage older people with depression in order to prevent hospitalisation.

“Possible reasons for the higher admission rates in this depressed group include decreased compliance with treatment plans for other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, and psychological changes associated with depression that complicate the course of other medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease,” said Winthrop Professor Osvaldo Almeida, director of the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Health and Ageing.

The study looked at 5411 Perth men aged 69 years and older. The men’s depressive symptoms were assessed using the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale. Of the participants, 6.3 per cent had moderate to severe depression. Almost half of the depressed men had at least one emergency admission compared with 23 per cent of non-depressed men. Overnight admissions and deaths in hospital were also higher in this group.

“Although the idea that there is a relationship between depression and medical admission is not new, no previous studies have shown this link in a community, rather than a clinical sample of older people,” Almeida said.

“Our results indicate that we must tackle the issues of depression in later life if we are serious about optimising the use of limited hospital resources available to the Australian population.”

The research is part of the Health in Men Study (HIMS) following a group of men living in Perth since 1996. It is the largest study focusing on ageing men in Australia.

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