Elderly depression patients less likely to be referred for psychological therapy

New research has found that elderly people are less likely to be referred for psychological therapies to treat their depression and are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.

The University College London (UCL) and Bristol University conducted a study which revealed that older people prefer talking therapies over taking antidepressants, especially for low-level symptoms.

Statistics revealed that in some areas of the UK as few as 3.5 per cent of over-65s are recommended to see a therapist.

Moreover, this inequality increases with age; those aged 85 and over are five times less likely to be referred for psychological therapies as those aged 55–59 years.

Furthermore, one-third of elderly individuals are more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant.

Figures indicated that one in 10 elderly are thought to suffer from depression however 87 per cent of elderly people are treated with medication.

The study found limited time in consultations and the complexity of needs in later life meant physical health was often practised over mental health.

Dr Rachael Frost from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, lead author of the paper, said: “There needs to be greater access to talking therapies for older people suffering with depression.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs responded to the study and said: “GPs only ever recommend antidepressants after a full and frank discussion with the patient and if we genuinely believe they will help them.

“Whilst antidepressants can be effective drugs, we know that in general patients don’t want to be on long-term medication – and GPs don’t want that, either. We will always try to explore alternative therapies, such as CBT and talking therapies, but access to these therapies in the community is patchy across the country – and there is also a lack of variety, to allow us to match these services to the specific needs of our patients.”

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