Depression is a common disorder in later life that is associated with increased disability and costs, and negative health outcomes over time. Antidepressant treatments in the form of medications or psychotherapy are available, but a large proportion of those treated fail to respond fully, and relapse or recurrence of symptoms is frequent among those who recover. Hence, successful prevention would avoid these negative outcomes. This paper selectively reviews currently available observational and trial data on the prevention of depression. It initially reviews risk factors associated with depression, and then discusses strategies for primary (including universal, selective and indicated), secondary and tertiary prevention. Currently available evidence suggests that selective and indicated preventive interventions are feasible and initial results look promising. Existing trial data indicate that ongoing antidepressant treatments reduce the risk of relapse and recurrence of symptoms, but benefits may not extend beyond two or three years. At this point in time, no interventions have been shown to reduce the long term complications associated with depression. Mental health professionals will need to work collaboratively to develop primary, secondary and tertiary preventive interventions that are effective at targeting relevant risk factors systematically and that can be easily adopted into clinical practice. © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.