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released: 16 Oct 2013 author: AIHW media release

Entry into residential aged care can be a challenging experience and the presence of depression can add to this challenge. This report provides the first in-depth review of available administrative data to explore the prevalence and characteristics of people with symptoms of depression in residential aged care. In 2012, over half (52%) of all permanent residential aged care residents had symptoms of depression. Between 2008 and 2012, residents admitted to care for the first time who had symptoms of depression were more likely to have high care needs, and were more likely to have behaviours which impacted on care needs.

ISSN 1329-5705; ISBN 978-1-74249-500-2; Cat. no. AGE 73; 62pp.; $13

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Entry into residential aged care can be challenging, with its changes to routine, loss of independence and physical relocation to a new environment. The presence of depression adds to this. Depression is a serious but manageable condition that can affect a person's quality of life, and may be associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment (Baldwin 2008; Boyle & Wilson 2010).

This report looks at the prevalence of symptoms of depression in residential aged care and the characteristics of residents with symptoms of depression.

Over half of all permanent aged care residents had symptoms of depression 

At 30 June 2012, just over half (52%) of all permanent aged care residents had a Cornell Scale for Depression (CSD) score that indicated symptoms of depression. There was a slightly higher rate in women (53%) than men (51%).

Just under half of people entering residential aged care for the first time had null symptoms of depression 

About 45% of people admitted for the first time to residential aged care from 2008 to 2012 had a CSD score that indicated symptoms of depression. In that period, the proportion of newly-admitted residents with symptoms increased by 21%. This related mainly to residents with mild symptoms, and as such may partly reflect slightly increased use of the CSD or improved recognition of symptoms. The proportion of newly-admitted residents with symptoms decreased with age.

Residents with symptoms of depression had higher care needs 

Newly-admitted residents with a CSD score indicating symptoms of depression had higher care needs, with 73% classified as high care, compared with 53% of those without symptoms.

The odds of newly-admitted residents with symptoms of depression having behaviours that impact on care needs were more than double (139% higher) the odds for those without symptoms. Newly-admitted residents with symptoms of depression were also more likely than those without symptoms to be discharged sooner (including discharge due to death or to hospital), and to have a second Aged Care Funding Instrument appraisal sooner.

Just over two-thirds of permanent aged care residents who had symptoms of null depression had a diagnosis or had one being sought

Women with a CSD score indicating symptoms of depression (69%) were more likely to have a diagnosis or have one sought than men (64%). The likelihood of newly-admitted residents with symptoms of depression having a diagnosis, or having one sought, decreased with age.

More than 1 in 10 (12,900) newly-admitted residents with symptoms of depression had moderate or major symptoms but were categorised for funding purposes as having mild symptoms.

Recommended citation

AIHW 2013. Depression in residential aged care 2008-2012. Aged care statistics series no. 39. Cat. no. AGE 73. Canberra: AIHW.