Older adults should continue to drive to cut depression risk: Study

Older adults should not give up driving. A Columbia University study published recently has revealed that when older adults discontinue driving there is a high chance of them developing depression, dementia and other health-related problems.

The risk of depression doubles in such adults partly due to social isolation or lack of independence, says a report in reuters.com related to the new study. “The decision to stop driving is not trivial but has significant implications for the patient’s health, well-being and life expectancy,” said Dr. Guohua Li of the Mailman School of Public Health at the Columbia University Medical Center, New York City.

A collective analysis of results from various studies revealed that those who had stopped driving demonstrated 91 percent higher probability to experience depressive symptoms compared to those continued to remain behind the wheel, the report states.

According to the study, driving is also effective in keeping dementia at bay as it helps the driver remain alert which in turn prevents cognitive degeneration. As per a report in the Mirror, the study says that driving gives people a feeling of self-control, personal freedom and independence. The research adds that driving is especially beneficial for older adults as it plays a role in driving away symptoms of dementia.

Another advantage of driving is that it may delay physical signs of aging. The study also states that for senior citizens who do not have access to good public transport system, driving can be a good means of staying active.

Depression in seniors a major public health problem

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) considers depression in people aged 65 or older to be a major public health problem. According to medicinenet.com, about 6 million Americans aged 65 or more suffer from late-life depression. In the elderly, depression sets in along with other health-related issues and disabilities.

According to wemmd.com, the very common problem which may be associated with depression in elderly is the risk of cardiac diseases. Depression doubles the chance of cardiac diseases in an elderly person and at times it also ups the chance of death.

Various studies have shown that depression can be the reason for various other problems in an elderly. A study, conducted jointly by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Federal University of Minas in 2013, showed that late-life depression increases the chance of vascular dementia. And, the risk of vascular dementia is higher than the risk of Alzheimer’s disease for older adults with depression, says upmc.com.

Depression is a common mental disorder and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 19 million Americans suffer from it with women being nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.

Looking at the enormity of the problem, for the first time, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has advised that physicians screen all pregnant and postpartum women and elderly adults for signs of depression. General physicians have been asked to treat those afflicted by the disorder with antidepressants, refer them to psychotherapy or do both, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Living with a mental illness can be saddening and depressive for the entire family. You can seek experts’ guidance by approaching the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Our representatives can guide you to the best treatment options for various mental disorders. Call today at 855-653-8178 or chat online for further information.