Mental Health, a Public Health Issue for Older Adults

Social isolation, loss of loved ones, and changes in physical health contribute to depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment in older adults.

Helpful Highlights

  • Mental health is a significant public health issue for older adults due to several reasons.

  • Given these factors, addressing mental health among older adults is essential for promoting healthy aging, improving quality of life, preventing suicide, and reducing the burden on individuals, families, and healthcare systems.

  • Public health efforts aimed at increasing awareness, reducing stigma, improving access to mental health services, and integrating mental health care into primary care settings are critical for addressing the mental health needs of older adults.

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High prevalence of mental health disorders

Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment are common among older adults. Studies have shown that approximately 20% of adults aged 60 and older experience a mental health disorder, with depression being one of the most prevalent conditions.

Impact on quality of life

Mental health disorders can have a profound impact on the overall quality of life and well-being of your loved one. Symptoms such as persistent sadness, worry, agitation, and memory loss can interfere with daily functioning, social relationships, and overall enjoyment of life.

Increased risk of suicide

Older adults have a higher risk of suicide compared to younger age groups, with depression being a significant risk factor. Suicide rates are particularly high among older adult men, who may be less likely to seek help for mental health issues and more likely to use lethal means for suicide attempts.

Underdiagnosis and undertreatment

Mental health disorders among older adults are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Older adults may be less likely to seek help for mental health concerns due to stigma, lack of awareness about available treatments, or physical health conditions that may mask symptoms of mental illness.

Comorbidity with physical health conditions

Mental health disorders frequently coexist with chronic physical health conditions among older adults. For example, depression is common among older adults with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Mental health disorders can exacerbate physical health problems and vice versa, leading to worse health outcomes and increased healthcare utilization.

Impact on caregivers

Your loved one's mental health issues can also affect your mental health and well-being. You may experience high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and caregiver burden when caring for your loved one with a mental health disorder, leading to negative health outcomes for you both.

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Elderly man is smiling at his relative caregiver