The Most Common Risk Factors for Developing Depression if You’re Over 50

You’ve certainly joked about having a midlife crisis before, but once 50 hits, you may notice you and all of your friends are seemingly more glum than ever before. The Huffington Post notes those with the highest risk of depression are baby boomers who are currently between the ages of 45 and 64. And that may be because significant life changes, like retirement and shifts in family dynamics, are common during this time.

Whether you’re feeling blue or not, it’s important to know how at risk you may be for developing depression. Here are the risk factors you should know about (including No. 9, which affects millions).

1. You can’t sleep

Senior woman sleeping on bed in bedroom at home

Senior woman sleeping on bed in bedroom | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

WebMD notes that insomnia is often thought of as just a symptom of depression, but it can also be a risk factor for older adults. When you don’t get enough sleep, you may notice you’re more irritable and tense than usual — and your physical fitness level might also suffer. The extra stress on your body and mind can lead to depression.

It’s important to note that insomnia is also the most common sleep disorder in the U.S. Nearly one out of every three adults will experience this sleep problem in their lifetime, with more women reportedly having it than men.

Next: Your marital status can also impact your mental health. 

2. You’re unmarried, divorced, or widowed

Bored senior man watching tv

Senior man watching TV | littlebee80/iStock/Getty Images

It’s no secret that divorce is a reality for many adults younger and older. And now, many folks over 50 are living out their lives independently, whether they chose to or not. Unfortunately, especially for older adults who have experienced great loss, depression often follows periods of grief and loneliness, Psychology Today confirms.

For many who experience spousal bereavement (or loss of another sort), the grief doesn’t last forever. But if you feel as though the pain never dulls after you’ve lost someone important, you may be depressed.

Next: It’s important to have this if you’ve lost someone close to you. 

3. You don’t have a strong network of friends or family around

Senior couple reading a map

Senior couple reading a map | jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Forming relationships with others, whether they’re romantic or not, is vital for your mental and emotional health. And it’s no secret that making friends as you age is harder than it was when you were a youth. AARP notes it probably feels as if you have fewer opportunities to meet others — and you may also be out of practice when it comes to creating new connections.

Remember: There are plenty of others in the over-50 crowd who may also want friendship. Don’t be afraid to join a local club or get involved in the community to keep you emotionally fulfilled.

Next: This medical condition is a risk factor. 

4. You’re living with diabetes

man is measuring the level of glucose in his blood

Man measuring his blood glucose levels for diabetes |

You probably didn’t realize that having diabetes can put you at a greater risk for developing depression. But Mayo Clinic notes it can — and having depression can also raise your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Dealing with diabetes can be incredibly stressful, especially if you’ve just developed it post-50. And if it’s poor habits, like unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise, that have caused your diabetes, then these can also harm your mental health. If you’re currently pre-diabetic, make sure you’re maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle to keep the disease away.

Next: Your heart health can also affect you mentally. 

5. You’ve had a heart attack or heart surgery

Male patient lying on a hospital bed and ready to be put under anesthesia

Patient about to go under for surgery | Antonio_Diaz/Getty Images

You know by now that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S., so if you’ve had a cardiac event in your life, you’re certainly not alone. And after a heart attack or surgery, up to 25% of patients develop depression, the American Heart Association notes.

While you’re recovering, you may stress about who’s taking care of responsibilities in your home, at work, and in your personal life. But it’s vital to maintain a positive outlook while you’re healing, as this can greatly impact you both physically and mentally. Setting goals, celebrating your progress, and practicing healthy habits are all important.

Next: Fearing aging can really take a toll. 

6. You fear death and aging

Woman caring for her elderly mother

Woman caring for her elderly mother | Daisy-Daisy/iStock/Getty Images

Let’s face it — we’re all getting older, and death is one of the only things in life that’s guaranteed. As you hit 50 and beyond, you may start to think about your own mortality more often. And that may send you in a tailspin of fear, which can result in negative thinking and eventual depression.

It may feel natural to get anxious when thinking about aging, especially because of cultural obsessions with youth. But remember: Everyone ages. And with it comes life experience, wisdom, and memories that you wouldn’t have otherwise had, so don’t worry too much.

Next: This milestone seems like a good thing — but it can bring depressing thoughts.  

7. You’ve just retired

Tense senior man sitting in living room at home

Tense senior man sitting in living room at home | WaveBreakMedia/Getty Images

The moment you’ve been waiting for since your 20s is finally here: You’re financially stable enough to retire. And while everyone around you may expect you to be jumping for joy, retiring from your job can actually be a risk factor for depression. Verywell explains work gives many people purpose in their lives. And when they’re finished working, they may discover they have no idea what to do with their time. Additionally, dynamics in your home may greatly change.

If this sounds like you, try spending more time with loved ones and getting social. Now may be the perfect opportunity to start a new project, too.

Next: Your medications can impact your mental health. 

8. You’re on medications to treat high cholesterol

Cholesterol level chart

Cholesterol level chart |

High cholesterol affects over 100 million Americans per year, so if you’re on medications to lower yours, you’re not alone. With that said, certain meds used to treat this condition can cause depression. WebMD notes statins like Lipitor, Lescol, and Zocor are all commonly prescribed to those who have troubling cholesterol levels or heart disease. And these may increase your risk of depression, so beware.

Next: Feeling aches and pains with age? Know how this can affect you.

9. You’re dealing with chronic pain as you age

Woman massaging her feet

Woman massaging her feet | mheim3011/Getty Images

It’s likely you’ll feel a few more aches and pains as you age — but if you’re dealing with chronic pain, your mental health can also suffer. WebMD notes when pain becomes consistent in your everyday life, it’s common to have high levels of stress hormones in your body. Not only that, but you may also have low energy and disrupted sleep. And depending on how severe your pain is, it may limit your independence.

If pain is severely impacting your life, ask your doctor about the best course of action.

Next: This brain disease can change your mood. 

10. You’re developing dementia

A man comforting his father who has dementia

A man comforting his father who has dementia | MonkeyBusinessImages/Getty Images

Dementia is another condition that affects millions of Americans. And if you’ve been diagnosed with a form of dementia, like Alzheimer’s, it can be tough to accept. The Alzheimer’s Association notes depression is actually quite common amongst those with the disease, especially when it’s in its early stages.

It can be difficult to identify depression in dementia patients, so pay close attention to how you’re feeling. Isolating yourself from others and losing interest in activities you once loved are all signs.

Next: Some changes can seem too difficult to adjust to.

11. You’ve gone through serious changes in your home or job recently

Senior man having difficulties driving

Senior man having difficulties | eggeeggjiew/iStock/Getty Images

Retirement aside, there are plenty of other changes that can occur in your home or job post-50. Perhaps you lose your job before you’re prepared to, or you have an adult child moving back in due to student loans. Whatever the case may be, jarring alterations in your life can throw your mental health for a loop. And such changes can even be the catalyst for depression.

To help with life’s curveballs, keeping a consistent routine can help you stay grounded while you’re adjusting.

Next: This type of medication can also lead to mental health problems. 

12. You’re on medications to treat high blood pressure

A doctor checks a patient's blood pressure.

A doctor checks a patient’s blood pressure. |

Like statins for cholesterol, there are certain medications used to treat high blood pressure that can also lead to mental health trouble. WebMD notes calcium-channel blockers are often prescribed to relax blood vessels and slow the heart rate, and beta-blockers, which are also used to treat a variety of heart and blood pressure problems, can also raise the risk of depression in some. If you’re taking these meds, keep track of how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally. And don’t hesitate to bring up your mental health with your doctor.

Next: One gender is more likely to experience depression than the other.

13. You’re a female

A woman in bed next to her husband

A woman in bed next to her husband | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

WebMD explains women are actually twice as likely to develop clinical depression as men are. This could be related to changing hormone levels as a woman ages, too, which means you may be feeling particularly blue if you’re going through menopause. And for women who have also lost a loved one or experienced ongoing psychological stress, the odds of developing depression are even higher.

This isn’t to say men can’t develop depression, however. People of all ages should pay attention to how they’re feeling and get help when necessary.

Next: Are you paying enough attention to your drinking habit?

14. You have a cocktail every day

A bartender pours alcohol

A bartender pours alcohol | Bogdanhoda/Getty images

There’s nothing wrong with drinking — and for many folks 50 and beyond, having a cocktail with family or friends is the perfect way to unwind. You should pay attention to how much you’re drinking, though, as developing an alcohol habit can lead to depression.

American Addiction Centers notes drinking too much and depression is absolutely linked, as alcohol can make you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally unwell. Keep stock of how much you’re drinking, and consider cutting back if you’re imbibing every day.

Next: Genetics can make a huge difference. 

15. You have a family history of depression

Mother and Daughter

Senior mom and adult daughter | GeorgeRudy/iStock/Getty Images

You can’t control your genetics, for better or for worse. And if you have a family history of depression, then odds are higher that you’ll develop a mental disorder as well. There’s also a chance your mental health disorder won’t fully develop until you’re over 50.

It’s important to know the symptoms of depression, no matter what your age is. Knowing what to look for and getting yourself help are important factors in living life to the fullest.

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