Two-thirds of older Americans would not seek treatment for depression, new poll shows

A new nationwide poll, the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, shows that nearly two-thirds (61%) of Americans age 65 or older who have concerns about having depression will not seek treatment. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 (33%) seniors who are concerned they might be suffering from depression believe they can "snap out" of it on their own.

The 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' mindset of some seniors and reluctance to talk about mental health are hindering them from getting the help they need - especially now when the pandemic is having an enormous impact on the mental health of older Americans. People will seek treatment for conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. Depression is no different. It is an illness that can and should be treated."

Dr. Mark Pollack, chief medical officer of Myriad Neuroscience, makers of the GeneSight test

Yet, while depression is a condition that needs to be treated:

  • 61% of respondents who are concerned they might have depression would not treat it because "my issues aren't that bad."
  • About 4 in 10 (39%) of these consumers think they can manage depression without a doctor's help.

"In my experience, there is a commonly held view that depression is a normal part of aging; it is not," said Dr. Parikshit Deshmukh, CEO and medical director of Balanced Wellbeing LLC in Oxford, Florida, which provides psychiatric and psychotherapy services to nursing and assisted living facilities. "I've found older adults have a very difficult time admitting that they have depression. When they do acknowledge it, they are still reluctant to start treatment for a wide variety of reasons."

Depression remains a taboo topic among older Americans, despite about one-third of those over the age of 65 who are concerned they have depression recognizing that depression has interfered with their relationships and their ability to enjoy activities.

"There is such a stigma about depression among people my age," said Carmala Walgren, a 74-year-old resident of New York. "I am proof that you do not have to accept living with depression. Although it may not be easy to find treatment that helps you with your symptoms without causing side effects, it is certainly worth it."

Walgren's doctor used information from the results of her GeneSight test, a genetic test that identifies potential gene-drug interactions for depression medications, to help inform Walgren's medication selection.

"The GeneSight test made such a difference in my life," said Walgren. "My doctor has used the test results to find medications that helped me."

The GeneSight® Mental Health Monitor is a nationwide survey of US adults conducted by Acupoll from August 12-September 27, 2020. The survey was conducted among a statistically representative sample of US adults age 18+, including a US representative sample of adults age 65 and older. The margin of error in survey results for those Age 65+ who are concerned they may have depression but have not been diagnosed is +/-5%.

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