Risk factors for older people

Anxiety and depression in older people may occur for different reasons, but physical illness or personal loss can be common triggers.

Factors that can increase an older person's risk of developing anxiety or depression include:

  • an increase in physical health problems/conditions e.g. heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease
  • chronic pain
  • side-effects from medications
  • losses: relationships, independence, work and income, self-worth, mobility and flexibility
  • social isolation
  • significant change in living arrangements e.g. moving from living independently to a care setting
  • admission to hospital
  • particular anniversaries and the memories they evoke.

Everyone is different and it's often a combination of factors that can contribute to a person developing anxiety or depression. See What causes depression? and What causes anxiety? for more detailed information.

While you can't always identify the cause or change difficult circumstances, the most important thing is that you learn to recognise the signs and symptoms and get support.

If you’re concerned about an older person experiencing anxiety or depression, or just not coping, then it is important to show you care by having a conversation with them about it.