Constant sleep disruption is just one of many known factors that can lead to depression. The list of other known contributors is lengthy, and includes physical health, social isolation, age, and habits. A recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that it may also depend on what generation you are part of. In the index conducted between January 2nd and December 30th 2014 (part of an on-going index), baby boomers were found to have the highest depression rates of U.S. adults.

Baby Boomers and Depression

Middle aged man in a dark room, looking stressedIn the index, 14% of baby boomers (adults born between 1946 and 1964) reported that they are currently undergoing treatment for depression, which surpasses the national average. The national average of adults currently undergoing treatment for depression is 11%. More baby boomers (21%) also reported being diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives compared to any other generation (which average between 15% and 16%). Unfortunately, Gallup-Healthways data only dates back to 2008 and does not show whether or not the baby boomer generation has always experienced higher percentages of depression than other generations. The health index also suggested several possible factors to account for the heightened depression seen in baby boomers in 2014.

Baby boomers may be more likely to report depression than the generation before them (called the traditionalist generation) because they were born at a time when mental health studies and care were undergoing huge changes in practice. The way that adults discuss depression has also shifted significantly between the baby boomer and traditionalist generations, making baby boomers far more likely to talk about their depression than traditionalists.

A possible reason for baby boomer depression numbers to be higher than later generations (the millennials and generation X) is their age. Baby boomers are currently roughly between the ages of 50 and 60, the age group most susceptible to depression. Adults in their 50s and 60s have gone through a large number of changes in their life situations and social pressures. Many have finished seeing children through school or have reached a point in their career where they are close to retirement. Many adults in this age group may also experience age-related health complications that contribute to depression. One such complication is sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea, Age, and Depression

Age is one of many contributing risk factors of sleep apnea. A high number of sleep apnea cases occur in adults older than 60. People suffering from sleep apnea experience trouble breathing at night. They may snore heavily due to an obstructed air passage, and may even stop breathing multiple times throughout the night resulting in multiple disruptions of sleep. Our body uses sleep to repair itself, sort through emotional memories, and rest for the following day.

As baby boomers get into their 60s, their risk of sleep apnea and other conditions that disrupt sleep increases. Although it is probably not the only cause of heightened depression rates, sleep disordered breathing in aging baby boomers may increase the numbers of baby boomers being treated for depression in future data sets from this ongoing study.

Whether you are a baby boomer or come from a different generation, if you experience depression or snoring, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. Seeking treatment sooner than later may not only improve your depression symptoms, but can also improve your work performance and overall physical health. It is important to keep in mind that studies on depression and sleep apnea have not tested whether or not sleep apnea treatment can stand alone as treatment for depression, and may only be an adequate supplement to other treatments for depression.

To learn more about how sleep apnea can improve your physical and mental health, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.