In this paper, the results of a community-based study into the prevalence and risk factors associated with depression in the older (55-85 years) population of The Netherlands are presented. The prevalence of major depression was 2.02%, that of minor depression 12.9%, while 14.9% had clinically relevant levels of depressive symptoms. Associations with a comprehensive set of risk factors were not affected dramatically by age or sex. However, comparing major to minor depression, risks were substantially differently distributed. It appears that major depression is more often an exacerbation of a chronic mood disturbance, with roots in long-standing vulnerability factors; while minor depression is more often a reaction to the stresses commonly experienced in later life. © 1995.