Skip to content

Management of depression and referral of older people to psychological therapies: a systematic review of qualitative studies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e171-e181
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number680
Early online date12 Feb 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 7 Sep 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2019
DatePublished (current) - Mar 2019


Background: Depressive symptoms are common in later life and increase risk of functional and cognitive decline and use of healthcare services. Despite older people expressing preferences for talking therapies, they are less likely to be referred than younger adults, particularly when aged over 80 years.

Aim: To explore how healthcare professionals manage older people in relation to depression and referrals to psychological therapies.

Design and Setting: Systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies.

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CINAHL and SSCI (inception-March 2018) and included studies exploring healthcare professionals’ views regarding management of late life depression across all settings. We excluded studies of older people’s views or depression management across all ages.

Results: We included 27 studies, predominately focussing on general practitioners’ and primary and community care nurses’ views. Many healthcare professionals felt late life depression was primarily attributable to social isolation and functional decline, but treatments appropriate for this were limited. Clinicians perceived depression to have associated stigma for older adults, which required time to negotiate. Limited time and complexity of needs in later life meant physical health was often prioritised over mental health, particularly in frailer people. Good management of late life depression appeared to depend more on the skills and interest of individual GPs and nurses than a structured approach.

Conclusion: Mental health needs to be a more prominent concern within the care of older adults, with greater provision of psychological services tailored to later life. This may facilitate future identification and management of depression.

    Structured keywords


    Research areas

  • Primary Health Care, General Practice, Review, Qualitative Research, Aged, Frail Elderly, Depression



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Royal College of General Practioners at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 550 KB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 28/02/20

    Request copy


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups