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Review of "Depression In Later Life"

By Jill Manthorpe and Steve Iliffe
Jessica Kingsley, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jul 25th 2006
Depression In Later Life

In this short book, Depression in Later Life, Manthorpe and Iliffe examine the ways in which older people exhibit depression and the ways that they can be helped.  They write clearly and have done thorough research, with twelve pages of references at the end.  Unsurprisingly, depression is a serious problem in old age, and often occurs in conjunction with other health problems.  Furthermore, people at the end of their lives tend to face their own mortality, and suffer significant losses as other close friends and family members pass away.  The physical and psychological difficulties faced the elderly put them at increased risk for depression. 

Manthorpe and Iliffe are careful to spell out not just the personal costs of depression and the medical treatments available for it, but also the effects on family and other caregivers of depression, and they discuss non-medical ways of both preventing and treating depression.    They use short case vignettes throughout the book to illustrate their points, and this makes the text especially approachable.  The authors are British, and their discussion is almost entirely based on the health care system in the UK.  This will reduce the interest of the book to readers outside of the UK, but most of the authors' main points will transpose to other Western countries. 

After the introductory chapters, the authors discuss the relation between depression and dementia, the relation between depression, anxiety and psychosis, suicide and self-harm, support for those who care for old people with depression, and ways to prevent depression.  All through, they survey the existing knowledge base, and emphasize the social elements.  For example, for an immigrant woman from Eastern Europe who is socially isolated, they stress the need to find someone who can talk with her in her native language.  For a woman with some psychosis, they discuss the need for social services to be involved in her care so she is able to continue living in her own home.  In their conclusion, the authors stress the importance of a social model in thinking about depression. 

It is not entirely clear what readership Depression in Later Life is aimed at.  It is not designed for patients or their families, since it is slightly too academic for that, and it does not focus on the steps that families can take to solve the problems caused by depression.  It does not seem to be aimed at clinicians either, since it says little that would be new for them, although it could be a helpful summary of existing knowledge.  It seems to be best suited to policy-makers and academics: the authors are themselves academics as well as clinicians, and they seem to be writing for their peers.  The book could certainly be used in an undergraduate course in gerontology and social work, especially for UK students.  Other readers may also be able to find some useful ideas of perspectives here, and since the list of references is so thorough, the book can be used as a guide to the other literature in this area. 


© 2006 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.