A recent review led by researchers from the University College London and Bristol suggests that primary care services for older people do not currently prioritise older adults’ mental health to the same extent as their physical health because of lack of referral options to older people’s needs. This review was published in the British Journal of General Practice.
Researchers conducted a search across electronic databases and identified 27 qualitative studies that explored health care professionals’ (HCPs; general practitioners and primary and community care nurses) views and experiences on management and treatment of later-life depression in older adults.
Many HCPs felt that late-life depression was mainly related to social isolation and functional decline, but treatments for this were limited. Many clinicians felt that older people normalised depression as part of ageing, isolation and decline and felt it to be a stigmatising factor. HCPs tend to prioritise physical health over mental health. Severe depressive symptoms could prompt action, but the severity was defined in terms of physical impact. Psychological therapies were considered appropriate for the management of depression, but they were wide differences in provision across localities. There were differences in HCPs’ skills, interest and perceived role in depression management across all settings.
Based on this review, the authors commented, “Depression in later life can be managed in primary care but needs to address the complex needs of older adults. Enough staff training and clarity of staff roles is required. Psychological therapies along with other social referral options are needed to facilitate the identification and treatment of late-life depression in older people.”