Mood and anxiety disorders are common mental illnesses after age 6o. Older adults those aged 60 or above make important contributions to society. They volunteer and are active participants in the workforce. While most have good mental health, many older adults are at risk of developing mental disorders. Neurological disorders or substance use problems as well as other health conditions such as diabetes, hearing loss, and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, as people age, they are more likely to experience several conditions at the same time.
The problem mental illnesses
The world’s population is ageing rapidly. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s older adults is estimated to almost double from about 12% to 22%. In absolute terms, this is an expected increase from 900 million to 2 billion people over the age of 60. Older people face special physical and mental health challenges which need to be recognized.
common mental illnesses after age 60
Did you know that over 20% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. The most common mental and neurological disorders in this age group are dementia and depression. This can be caused by many things from partner loss to pet loss. Anxiety disorders affect 3.8% of the older population, substance use problems affect almost 1% and around a quarter of deaths from self-harm are among people aged 60 or above. Substance abuse problems among older people are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Mental illnesses problems are under-identified by health-care professionals and older people themselves, and the stigma surrounding these conditions makes people reluctant to seek help. Treatment for problems like depression and anxiety can be found.
Risk factors for mental health problems among older adults
There may be multiple risk factors for mental health problems at any point in life. Older people may experience life stressors common to all people, but also stressors that are more common in later life, like a significant ongoing loss in capacities and a decline in functional ability. For example, older adults may experience reduced mobility, chronic pain, frailty or other health problems, for which they require some form of long-term care. In addition, older people are more likely to experience events such as bereavement, or a drop in socioeconomic status with retirement. All of these stressors can result in isolation, loneliness or psychological distress in older people, for which they may require long-term care.
Mental health has an impact on physical health and vice versa. For example, older adults with physical health conditions such as heart disease have higher rates of depression than those who are healthy. Additionally, untreated depression in an older person with heart disease can negatively affect its outcome.
common mental illnesses after age 60
Older adults are also vulnerable to elder abuse including physical, verbal, psychological, financial and sexual abuse. Current evidence suggests that 1 in 10 older people experience elder abuse. Elder abuse can lead not only to physical injuries, but also to serious, sometimes long-lasting psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety.
Dementia and depression among older people as public health issues
Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities. It mainly affects older people, although it is not a normal part of ageing.
It is estimated that 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia with nearly 60% living in low- and middle-income countries. The total number of people with dementia is projected to increase to 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050.
There are significant social and economic issues in terms of the direct costs of medical, social and informal care associated with dementia. Moreover, physical, emotional and economic pressures can cause great stress to families and carers. Support is needed from the health, social, financial and legal systems for both people with dementia and their carers.
Depression can cause great suffering and leads to impaired functioning in daily life. Uni-polar depression occurs in 7% of the general older population and it accounts for 5.7% of YLDs among those over 60 years old. Depression is both under diagnosed and under treated in primary care settings. Symptoms are often overlooked and untreated because they co-occur with other problems encountered by older adults.
Older people with depressive symptoms have poorer functioning compared to those with chronic medical conditions such as lung disease, hypertension or diabetes. Depression also increases the perception of poor health, the utilization of health care services and costs.
Treatment and care strategies to address mental health needs of older people
It is important to prepare health providers and societies to meet the specific needs of older populations, including:
- training for health professionals in providing care for older people;
- preventing and managing age-associated chronic diseases including mental, neurological and substance use disorders;
- designing sustainable policies on long-term and palliative care; and
- developing age-friendly services and settings.
The mental health of older adults can be improved through promoting Active and Healthy Ageing. Mental health-specific health promotion for older adults involves creating living conditions and environments that support well being and allow people to lead a healthy life. Promoting mental health depends largely on strategies to ensure that older people have the necessary resources to meet their needs, such as:
- providing security and freedom;
- adequate housing through supportive housing policy;
- social support for older people and their caregivers;
- health and social programs targeted at vulnerable groups such as those who live alone and rural populations or who suffer from a chronic or relapsing mental or physical illness;
- programs to prevent and deal with elder abuse; and
- community development programs.