31 million Americans 65 years or older, and five million of them (just over 16 percent) have depression (Boswell & Stoudemire, 1996). In Australia, one million people currently suffer from depression, and 14 percent will have it at some point in their lives (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008). There is some debate as to whether the prevalence of depression increases or decreases with age, with a recent report suggesting that there are fewer diagnoses of depression in older people as the rates are considerably lower than for younger people.
However, when broader measures are used which do not exclude from diagnosing contextual conditions more prevalent in older people – such as bereavement or dementia – the prevalence among community-dwelling elders is reported to be between six and twenty percent of that population: not inconsistent with the American figures. That rises to about 48 percent among the elderly living in hospitals (Bryant, Jackson, & Ames, 2009), and up to 50 percent for older people living in residential aged care (Cummings, 2002).