Important life changes that we make as we get older may cause feelings of uneasiness, stress, and sadness. For instance, the death of a loved one, moving from work into retirement, or dealing with a serious illness can leave people feeling sad or anxious. After a period of adjustment, many older adults can regain their emotional balance, but others do not and may develop depression. About two million Americans age 65 or older suffer from major depression, and another five million suffer from less severe forms of the illness.
NIHSeniorHealth (www.NIHSeniorHealth.gov) has added depression to its list of health topics of interest to older adults. This senior-friendly medical Web site is a joint effort of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which are part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"Although depression is common among older adults, it is not a normal part of aging," says Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which developed the content for the depression topic on NIHSeniorHealth. In fact, studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives.
However, when older adults do suffer from depression, it may be overlooked because they may be less willing to talk about feelings of sadness or grief. "NIHSeniorHealth is an excellent source of easy-to-understand information about how to recognize the symptoms of depression, how it is diagnosed and treatment options," says Dr. Insel.
Older Americans increasingly are turning to the Internet for health information. In fact, 68 percent of "wired" seniors surf for health and medical information when they go online. NIHSeniorHealth, which is based on the latest research on cognition and aging, features short segments of information in a variety of formats, including large-print type sizes, open-captioned videos and even a talking version. Additional topics coming soon to the site include clinical trials, nutrition and skin cancer. The site links to MedlinePlus, NLM's premier, more detailed site for consumer health information.
The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. The NLM, the world's largest library of the health sciences, creates and sponsors Web-based health information resources for the public and professionals. The NIMH supports research on mental and behavioral disorders. All three are components of the NIH in Bethesda, Md.
The NIH -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.