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The combined prevalence of major depressive disorder and dysthymia in late life is 5%–12% in epidemiological studies; this rate is similar to the rate in the younger adult population. However, the symptom pattern and frequency of specific depressive subtypes appear to be different; older patients have more somatic symptoms, and both the melancholic and the delusional subtypes of depression increase in frequency in older populations. In addition, some degree of cognitive impairment, whether manifest only concurrently with the depressive episode or as a function of age, is common.

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