A study published April 2009 in the Medical Journal of Australia shows a link between physical and mental decline in older adults.
The study found that rates of depression in older Australian adults are not as high as previous research studies have indicated.
"Depression amongst older adults is the exception not the rule in older adults," said Dr Jon Pfaff, the study’s lead author, based at the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing.
Professor Osvaldo Almeida, Director of Research at the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing, said the results were very exciting for two reasons.
"We were able to confirm that poor physical health has a significant impact on mental wellbeing and, more importantly, we showed that older people are mentally very resilient, as only significant physical disability seems to undermine good mental health," Professor Almeida said.
"It is as if the mind does not suffer the effects of ageing in the same way that the body does; our minds remain young until very late in life."
Previous studies have shown that this age group responds well to treatment.
"With about 80 per cent of older Australian adults visiting their general practitioner at least once a year, this places GPs in a unique position to detect and address depression in this age group," Dr Pfaff said.
The study included surveying more than 20,000 adults Australia-wide aged 60 years and over and was funded by grants from the National Health and Medical Research council (NHMRC) and beyondblue: the national depression initiative.
An estimated eight per cent of older Australian adults suffer from depression at some point and it is predicted that depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide within the next 10 years, making it a major public health problem.
(Source: University of Western Australia: Medical Journal of Australia: April 2009)