OCD, OCS and Depression in Ageing Populations

Jack Barton | 2014-08-21 09:14:47

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms (OCS) tend not to be talked about in the media. OCD is characterised by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviours (compulsions) (Mayo Clinic, 2013). OCS refers to symptoms associated with the disorder such as obsessions about locking doors, turning off the stove or catching germs and compulsions associated with these obsessions including repetitively checking or ordering items, avoiding hand shaking and etc. Due to the lack of publicity on the subject many believe that OCD and OCS are not particularly prevalent within the general population. However public misconception may understate both the prevalence and impact of the condition on health and wellbeing.

A recent study took a group of 900 ageing individuals and split them into two groups (over 70s and over 78s) analysing prevalence of OCD, OCS and prevalence of depression within these groups (Klenfeldt et al, 2014). Interestingly 2.9% of the population demonstrated OCD and 21% demonstrated OCS! That’s 26 and 189 individuals respectively. Not only was prevalence significantly higher than one may expect but 34.6% of those with OCD and 12.7% of those with OCS were diagnosed with depression, in comparison to 8% prevalence in those displaying no symptoms of OCD or OCS.

OCD and OCS are believed to correlate to reduced mental and social capacity with memory loss perhaps concentrating to obsessive compulsive behaviours. Perhaps the awareness of loss of mental and social capacity also contributes to increased prevalence of depression in these individuals.

What is for sure is that the presence and effects of OCD and OCS must not be understated. It would be wise for all individuals to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with the conditions and take actions to prevent the development of associated comorbidities including depression. Quality of life is of paramount importance for all individuals irrespective of age or other diagnosis, therefore addressing a diagnosis of OCD, and understanding the condition with support needs to be a primary focus.

Increasing population awareness is a step in the right direction, spreading the message may just help get these issues addressed.

Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)


Klenfeldt, I. F., Karlsson, B., Sigström, R., Bäckman, K., Waern, M., et al. (2014). Prevalence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Relation to Depression and Cognition in an Elderly Population. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22(3), 301-308.

Mayoclinic.org, (2013). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Definition – Diseases and Conditions – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ocd/basics/definition/con-20027827 [Accessed 30 Jun. 2014].