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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


ESPINOSA-AGUILAR, Amilcar et al. Guía de práctica clínica para el diagnóstico y tratamiento de depresión en los adultos mayores. Salud Ment [online]. 2007, vol.30, n.6, pp.69-80. ISSN 0185-3325.


Depression is growing in importance every day. It is estimated that by the year 2020 it will be worldwide the second cause for the loss of healthy life years and the first in developed countries. Considering this, an adequate and opportune diagnosis will allow for a complete handling of the disorder. This should include adequate psychotherapy and medical treatment which will in turn improve significantly the prognosis and life quality of depressed individuals.

In the primary care area, sub-diagnosis and delays to identify depression are common. These have a negative effect on the individuals' well-being, in public health and in the direct and indirect costs of health services. It is not uncommon for primary care practitioners to consider everyday complaints, the inability to cope with family stress, social isolation, role change and money problems as «causes » for depression. Thus, they deem depression «justified » and fail to offer treatment when actually this very inability is often caused by depression.

Depression is among the most frequent psycho-geriatric ailments. In Mexico, its overall prevalence is 9.5% in women and 5% in men age 60 or more. In most instances, it goes undiagnosed given its atypical expression or the false belief which considers it part of the normal aging process. In the elderly, depression may conceal somatic symptoms, be it as expressions of the depressive syndrome or because these same symptoms aggravate symptoms from other concomitant diseases. Secondary cognitive symptoms are more frequent among this age group.


To provide physicians at primary care a guideline with enough technical-medical elements to facilitate the timely diagnosis and integral treatment of elderly with depression.


This study comprised two phases: design and validation of the guideline.

Evidence selection

1. Key words for search: depression, elderly, clinical guidelines, prevalence, primary care, assessment, treatment, suicide risk.

2. Data bases used: Cochrane, Pub-Med and Medline for the 1990-2006 period.

3. Twenty-six references for major depression in the elderly were found: eight random meta-analysis, two random clinical, one cohort, twelve descriptive non-experimental, and three book articles (DSM-IV[HRM1] TR; CIE 10, Psycho-geriatrics Manual).

4. Evidence category and strength of recommendation. This indicates the user about the origin of recommendations issued.

In the algorithm from the clinical guide, the concepts or support for each recommendation are identified. In this guide, the diagnosis of depression is based on the CIE-10 and its ranking may be comparable to that for major depression in the DSM-IV TR. Differential diagnosis; criteria for referring a patient to the psychiatrist; guidelines for pharmacological, psychotherapeutic and psychosocial treatment; onset phase and maintenance phase are included.

Thus, the clinical practice guide proposed is based on a strict methodology. It offers enough elements for the general practitioner to assess an opportune and complete treatment for elderly people with depression. In addition, it incorporates criteria based on scientific evidence, which will allow updating it, and evaluating its solidity in the face of new evidence, which will in turn maintain its validity.

Palabras llave : Depression; elderly; clinical guidelines; prevalence; primary care; assesment; treatment; suicide risk.

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