Although women are diagnosed with depression about twice as often as men, four times as many men as women commit suicide. Part of the depression-vs-suicide discrpancy is due to the fact that men and women have different symptoms and too many mental health professionals don’t recognize men’s. In this guest post, Alena Shelly explains some of the factors that lead to depressnion in a particularly affected group: older men.

You may not be elderly or even middle aged (yet) but there are probably men in your life who are in that age category. Were you aware the group most at risk for suicide is older, white men? The suicide rate in the 80 to 84 age group is actually twice that of the general population. Many older men are in poor health and have become dependent on others for help. They don’t like this because they are not accustomed to being “needy.” When a man perceives himself as strong, independent and the one who took care of others it is hard to lose one’s autonomy.

For years most men are the main bread winner and undisputed head of the household. When this is no longer so, the man feels lost and becomes depressed, especially after retirement. Men heavily identify with the job they do and when they no longer do it this leaves a gaping hole in their self-esteem. They may feel useless. If the man’s wife is deceased, he may be mourning her loss and is lonely. If she is alive and taking care of him, he may feel guilt and shame over his neediness. Diminishing testosterone levels, which happens when men get older, is associated with depression.

Men of any age tend to think of depression as a character flaw indicating weakness, so they aren’t likely to cop to it and seek help.

Some elderly people are “relocated” and moved to nursing homes or other facilities, which traumatizes them. When thrust into an unfamiliar environment this confuses and upsets them, which is understandable. No one, regardless of age, likes being uprooted. The transition can be disconcerting and trigger depression.


  • Elderly people were raised in an era when depression and mental illness were something the family concealed and didn’t openly talk about. There was a tremendous stigma attached to mental illness, and it was hidden at all costs.
  • Because of their lack of information about depression, many elderly people do not understand it is a treatable chemical imbalance, and medicine is available.

Bad Health and Depression

Depression often occurs when an individual is in bad health. It is depressing to be sick and incapable of doing what you were once able to do. With elderly people, the sickness is sometimes permanent and irreversible. They know this is how they are going to have to spend their remaining days, whether it’s confined to their home, a wheelchair or their bed. It is very hard for an individual to keep his spirits up when in pain and suffering and feeling isolated from the rest of the world.

How Depression Manifests in Men

  • Depression in men, of any age, manifests differently than it does in women. A depressed man can become angry, aggressive and violent as well as engage in reckless behavior and abuse substances. A depressed man is likely to experience feelings of desperation and self-loathing.
  • A loss of interest in those things that once intrigued him is another indication depression has taken hold.
  • Sometimes depression in the elderly is overlooked because it is confused with the side effects medications and certain illnesses cause.
  • When an older person gets depressed, it tends to last longer than it does in a younger person, and it can lead to other health problems. In fact, it actually doubles the risk of cardiac disease and increases the odds that the person will die from the illness he is suffering from. When depressed, the elderly person is less capable of recovering from an illness.
  • If you suspect an elderly person is suffering from depression discuss it with him. Gently insist he seek treatment. Set up an appointment for the person’s physician and accompany him to the appointment. Encourage the patient to talk freely to his doctor. Do not treat the elderly person as though he were a child. He is not.


  • An antidepressant takes longer to take effect in an older person. The patient may be given a low dosage because of other medications he is taking.
  • Be aware some antidepressants can cause a drop in blood pressure when the person stands or sedate the person, making him woozy, which can lead to falls and broken bones. This must be taken into consideration by the patient and his caretakers before an antidepressant is prescribed.

For those who absolutely refuse to take an antidepressant, there is the option of undergoing psychotherapy. Attending group therapy, and receiving support from family and friends, can make a tremendous difference in a person’s mental health. When an individual no longer feels isolated or lonely this helps relieve depression.

Alena Shelly resides in sunny San Diego, CA where she works a rewarding job as a personal trainer & a nutritional consultant. In her spare time she likes to write for