The relationships between physical and social functioning and depression in old age are described. Findings from a longitudinal study carried out in 1984 on a population aged 60 years or over in the town of Ahtäri in Finland give evidence that disturbed physical and social functioning can predispose individuals to depression. Having poor emotional relations with one's wife predicted depression within five years among the initially non-depressed men, and not living alone among the women. From a preventive viewpoint, the independence of the elderly and social roles that support self-esteem in old age should be stressed. Marital counselling should be developed for the elderly.