The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a large-scale, nationally representative study of people aged 50 and over in Ireland. It is the most ambitious study of ageing ever carried out in Ireland and represents a step-change in terms of data, knowledge and understanding of ageing with which to inform policy and novel research. More than 8,000 people aged 50 and over accepted the invitation to participate in the first wave of TILDA, and the majority of these also agreed to undertake a comprehensive health assessment.

The Irish Times Health Supplement has reported on some of the first results regarding the mental health findings of the study. Some of this report is set out below:

“Despite the fact that depression is the most common mental illness in older people, a lack of awareness has meant it remains largely under-recognised and under-treated.

It is estimated that between 10 and 15 per cent of older adults living in the community suffer from significant depression, with this figure rising to 40 per cent among nursing home residents and up to 50 per cent among hospitalised older patients.

Data from international studies have shown that older people with suicidal thoughts are more likely to complete a suicide than younger people, and that the rate of suicide tends to increase with age.

The first results from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), a national study of 8,000 older people aged 50 and over, found that depression was common among older adults in Ireland, with 10 per cent reporting clinically significant depressive symptoms and a further 18 per cent reporting “sub-threshold” levels of depression. The study, which is being carried out by Trinity College in collaboration with researchers from nine other colleges, also found that anxiety was more common than depression among older adults, with 13 per cent reporting clinically significant symptoms. Tilda also found that depression in the elderly was strongly associated with disability, unemployment and increased use of both medication and health services.

According to the report, two thirds of older adults who suffered from a long-standing illness or disability also suffered with depression.

Depression is not an inevitable part of ageing, says Prof Greg Swanwick, a consultant old-age psychiatrist at Tallaght Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Trinity College in Dublin.

While it is understandable that some older people may feel down as a result of common late life experiences such as disability and bereavement, it does not mean that they are depressed.


To read the full Irish Times report please click on the link below: