Older people with depression: pilot study


  • Henry A. Minardi BSc MSc DipN DipCounselSup CertEd RGN RMN,

  • Martin Blanchard BSc MBBS MD MRCPsych

Henry Minardi,
Liaison Psychiatry for Older Adults,
Central and North West London Mental Health NHS Trust,
St Charles Mental Health Unit,
St Charles Hospital,
London W10 6DZ,
E-mail: henry.minardi@nhs.net


Background.  Although a substantial number of studies have identified the prevalence of depression experienced by older adults living in the community and the factors that may precipitate this depression, few have focussed on depression in older people who attend day centres. Consequently, there is no literature suggesting how depression in this population may be psychologically managed.

Aims.  The aim of this paper is to present the results of a pilot study investigating the incidence of depression in people attending a London Age Concern day centre, and its associations with perceptions of handicap, loneliness, social support networks, satisfaction with social support, and satisfaction with life.

Methods.  A quasi-experimental, cross-sectional pilot study was conducted with attendees at a London Age Concern day centre between November 1998 and January 1999. The day centre manager selected a convenience sample of 24 of 156 participants. Inclusion criteria were that participants must attend the day centre regularly and be over or equal to 65 years of age. The exclusion criterion was known psychiatric illness. Participants were interviewed using the Geriatric Mental State-Automated Geriatric Examination for Computer Assisted Taxonomy, which identifies caseness of psychopathology and includes a loneliness subscale, and completed the Satisfaction with Life Scale, Social Support Questionnaire and London Handicap Scale.

Results.  There was a higher level of depression in this day centre setting than that found in other community-based studies. There were the expected significant associations between depression and loneliness, and depression and satisfaction with life. However, unexpectedly, there were no associations between depression and social support, or depression and handicap.

Conclusions.  The study has several limitations. However, the high level of depression and significant relationships between depression, loneliness and satisfaction with life may indicate that the social function of day centres is not meeting expectations. This suggests that there could be a role for community mental health nurses in offering psychosocial interventions to alleviate some of the distress experienced.