Dementia and Depression Among the Elderly in Singapore

Dementia is characterized by progressive, gradual decline in one’s memory and cognitive abilities.  About two decades ago, a study carried out by World Health Organization(WHO) established that 3% of the geriatric population suffered from dementia. However a recent research carried out by Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) and the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore found that nearly 10% of senior citizens aged 60 and above have dementia. In 2005, it was found that nearly 22,000 individuals had dementia in Singapore. In 2015, 40,000 people were diagnosed to be suffering from dementia in Singapore. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be about 80,000 elderly who will be diagnosed with dementia in Singapore.

Depression affects a person’s ability to perform at school, at work and have nurturing social relationships with significant others. Among the elderly, depression is also a common mental illness due to various biological, financial, social and family factors. Depression often disrupts one’s ability to carry out activities of daily living in older people. Sometimes, dementia and depression may co-exist in the elderly.

Worsening Depression May Be a Sign of Dementia

Elderly people who exhibit signs of extreme melancholy and despair seen in depression may be at increased risk of having dementia, this was the finding of a recent study conducted by a group of researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. The longitudinal study followed 3,325 55-year old individuals for a period lasting more than 21 years and found out that 434 of the participants who suffered from clinical depression were later diagnosed with dementia, most of these (348) were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia. Persons whose depression progressively worsened during the observation period were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia compared to those who had less severe clinical features of depression.

Although the study could not ascertain a direct causal link between depression and dementia,  the research demonstrated statistically significant overlap of depression and dementia symptoms. The study would encourage further investigation regarding the influence of depression on the development of dementia.  The scientists conducting the research propounded a link between depression symptoms like low self-esteem and sleeping problems with the incidence of dementia in elderly people.


Psychiatrists in Singapore use different medicine for the treatment of depression and dementia. Psychologists in Singapore use psychological therapy including art therapy and social interventions to help people with dementia and depression. It is thus important to have early assessment to allow timely diagnosis and treatment.

Written by:

Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

SOURCES: Gisele Wolf-Klein, M.D., director, geriatric education, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Aaron Pinkhasov, M.D., chairman, department of behavioral health, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.; The Lancet Psychiatry, news release, April 29, 2016