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Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing

People with dementia less prone to depression if living in care homes

14 December 2014

A University of Manchester study has found that people with severe dementia living in care homes are less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than those living within the community.

The study, led by Professor David Challis of the University’s Personal Social Services Research Unit, analysed 414 people suffering with severe dementia along with their carers, spread across eight EU countries – England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

The findings of the study were that 37% of those living with dementia within the community showed signs of depression, whereas in care homes this figure dropped to 23%.

Professor Challis said of the findings, “Despite the differences between the countries involved, the pattern of depression observed in the community-dwelling group was consistent.

“In addition this difference may be partly explained by the responses received from carers.  Often, relatives of people with dementia are more distressed by symptoms of depression than professional care workers, so this may have influenced their ratings on the depression measure.

“What we need is more support for carers to help them cope with their relatives’ depressive symptoms and to recognise the problem before it gets to severe levels.”

The study also found that whilst the depression figure observed in individuals within communities was broadly consistent across each participating country, the level of depression as a whole within groups suffering from severe dementia varied.  Whilst the overall figure was 23%, Finland and the Netherlands fare better with figures of 15% and 21% respectively, showing that other countries could certainly learn from the manner in which they are approaching dementia and depression.

Speaking of the variance, Professor Challis commented “By studying a number of different countries you can gain insights into different ways of meeting needs.  Certainly the system in Finland and the Netherlands seems to have much to offer to UK care providers and overall we found that more needs to be done to help family carers identify and cope with their relatives’ symptoms of depression.”

A further factor the study looked at was the rate of prescription of anti-depressants, noting that England and Spain have the highest rates of prescription and that whilst Germany has the highest figure of people suffering depressive symptoms, it actually has the lowest rates of antidepressant usage. 

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