Insufficient Vitamin D has been found to Raise Risk for Depression in Seniors by 75%

Sorrowing Old Man by Vincent Van Gogh (Public Domain)

Depression is Dangerous for Seniors

Depression is a very dangerous state for seniors, as untreated depression can lead to suicide or suicidal attempts, especially among those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. An association has also been found with depression and serious neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, dementia and multiple sclerosis (MS). However, no one is certain whether the depression is an early warning sign of one of these neurodegenerative diseases or whether in fact depression can cause them.

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging at Trinity College Dublin

A recent Irish study published November 20, 2018, in JAMDA the Journal of Post-acute and Long-term Care Medicine shows a high association of Vitamin D insufficiency and an increased risk for depression in community dwelling seniors.

There were almost 4,000 participants in the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging, which was a large cohort study of seniors who were not suffering from depression at the beginning of the study. They were followed up over a four-year period. Results showed that there was more than a 75 % increased risk for depression in those seniors who had insufficient  levels of Vitamin D.

Later Life Depression in Seniors

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) About 1-5% of seniors living in the community suffer from depression, 13.5% who require home healthcare suffer from depression and 11.5% of older hospital patients suffer from depression.

Depression is not a Normal Part of Aging

While seniors can suffer from depression, it is not a normal part of aging. While life events like the death of a loved one or losing income or having to cope with a serious illness can make a person feel grief-stricken and sad, nonetheless most people get over these feelings after allowing time to adjust. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has tips to help people cope with the death of a beloved spouse. However, true clinical depression is much more than just feeling sad, but is a very serious mood order disease that will not go away without professional medical intervention and treatment.

Signs of Depression

In seniors the signs of depression sometimes go unnoticed and are taken to be a normal part of aging or they get misdiagnosed, as some of the symptoms are similar to early dementia or other diseases. According to the CDC, about 80% of seniors have at least one chronic health condition like diabetes, heart disease, post stroke, or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and 50% of seniors have two or more chronic health conditions. Misdiagnosing depression is a serious problem, as the earlier depression is diagnosed and treated the better it is for everyone.

  • Inability to function at work or at normal day-to-day tasks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or doing things
  • Extremely pessimistic
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Extreme apathy
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in food and eating or overeating
  • Difficulty remembering things and concentrating and making decisions
  • Sleep disturbances like insomnia, waking up and staying awake or excessive sleeping
  • Crying a lot
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Aches and pains and some stomach problems that do not respond to treatment

Treatment for Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is usually successfully treated in seniors. The treatment may be by anti-depressive drugs, psychotherapy or a combination of psychotherapy and anti-depressive drugs. However, seniors must tell the doctor treating them for depression about all the other medicines they are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and herbs in order to prevent a bad interaction between the drugs. Also,  your doctor may change some of the prescription drugs you are taking for your other medical problems, as some of them can cause depression as a side effect.

Preventing Suicide

If your loved one is in a crisis and threatening self-harm, you must call 911 right away and go to an emergency or mental health center. You can talk to a trained counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Toll-free Lifeline that operates 24/7:

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

If you or your loved one are in need on skilled nursing care at its best, the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York has a lot to offer and also has fantastic recreational and music programs that can go a long way to lifting up one’s spirits.


Since it is so easy to supplement with Vitamin D, steps can be taken to supplement seniors who are deficient by offering them Vitamin D, in the hope that they will never develop depression. However, if you or your loved one are already depressed, you must seek professional medical help. Vitamin D was seen in this study to be more as a way to prevent depression than a way to treat someone who is already depressed. Ask your doctor to test you or your loved one to see if you have enough Vitamin D and this could be supplemented alongside other methods of treatment. Testing for Vitamin D levels in the blood should be part of regular screening in the elderly.



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