Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Risk Factors and Signs of Depression

Predisposing and precipitating risk factors (note: the list is not exhaustive)

  • Cognitive decline or dementia
  • Social isolation
  • Medical diagnosis or diagnoses associated with a high risk of depression (e.g., neurodegenerative disease, cerebrovascular disease)
  • Chronic physical health problem with associated functional impairment
  • Personal or family history of depression or mood disorder 
  • History of attempted suicide or psychiatric hospitalization 
  • Current use of a medication associated with a high risk of depression
  • Alcohol or substance misuse (may include chronic benzodiazepine use)
  • Institutional placement (admission to long-term care or in-patient setting)
  • New stressful losses, including loss of autonomy, loss of privacy, loss of functional status, loss of body part
  • Financial difficultiesBereavement
  • Domestic abuse or violence

Signs and symptoms

Clinicians commonly use the mnemonic SIGECAPS to remember the signs and symptoms of depression in older adults.

Sleep Disorder (increased or decreased)
Interest deficit (anhedonia)
Guilt (worthlessness, hopelessness, regret)
Energy deficit
Concentration deficit
Appetite disorder (increased or decreased)
Psychomotor retardation or agitation

Additional symptoms: chronic pain, constipation and musculoskeletal disorders

Older Adults
Delirium, Dementia, and Depression in Older Adults: Assessment and Care
Point of Care Resources