International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Prevalence of depression among older Americans: the Aging, Demographics and Memory Study

David C. Steffensa1 c1, Gwenith G. Fishera2, Kenneth M. Langaa2a3a4, Guy G. Pottera1 and Brenda L. Plassmana1

a1 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham North Carolina, U.S.A.

a2 Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.

a3 Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.

a4 Veterans Affairs Center for Practice Management and Outcomes Research, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.


Background: Previous studies have attempted to provide estimates of depression prevalence in older adults. The Aging, Demographics and Memory Study (ADAMS) is a population-representative study that included a depression assessment, providing an opportunity to estimate the prevalence of depression in late life in the U.S.A.

Methods: The ADAMS sample was drawn from the larger Health and Retirement Study. A total of 851 of 856 ADAMS participants aged 71 and older had available depression data. Depression was measured using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview – Short Form (CIDI-SF) and the informant depression section of the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). We estimated the national prevalence of depression, stratified by age, race, sex, and cognitive status. Logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the association of depression and previously reported risk factors for the condition.

Results: When combining symptoms of major or minor depression with reported treatment for depression, we found an overall depression prevalence of 11.19%. Prevalence was similar for men (10.19%) and women (11.44%). Whites and Hispanics had nearly three times the prevalence of depression found in African-Americans. Dementia diagnosis and pain severity were associated with increased depression prevalence, while black race was associated with lower rates of depression.

Conclusions: The finding of similar prevalence estimates for depression in men and women was not consistent with prior research that has shown a female predominance. Given the population-representativeness of our sample, similar depression rates between the sexes in ADAMS may result from racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity.

(Received February 19 2009)

(Revised April 01 2009)

(Revised April 06 2009)

(Accepted April 07 2009)

(Online publication June 12 2009)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: David C. Steffens, M.D., M.H.S., Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Head, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3903, Durham, NC 27710, U.S.A. Phone: +1 (919)-684-3746; Fax: +1 (919)-681-7668. Email: