Why mental health issues are common in the elderly population

According to The World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 20% of people over the age of 60, suffer from mental or neurological disorders. The most common disorders experienced are dementia, depression and anxiety, which are often left undiagnosed and untreated. Mental health problems and disorders can severely affect a person’s quality of life and physical well-being. Discover more about health insurance for 50 years and over from Bloom Financial Services and Momentum Health4Me. Discover why mental health issues are common in the elderly population so you can take measures to assist your loved ones.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes one’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. Mental health affects how one behaves thinks and feels, which affects the choices and decisions we make. It also determines how one reacts to life’s stressors. If you have a healthy mental health mindset, you will be in a better position to manage stress while those suffering from poor mental health will struggle to manage stress and may develop poor coping skills or even develop physical ailments, like heart palpitations or stomach ulcers.

Some of the symptoms associated with poor mental health include:

  • Change in mood or energy levels 
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Appetite changes
  • Anger, irritability or aggression
  • Physical ailments, like headaches or digestive discomfort 
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities

Senior mental health: common elderly mental health problems

There are many different types of mental health disorders, but the ones that affect senior mental health the most are dementia, depression, anxiety and suicide. 

  1. Dementia. The WHO confirms that 5-8% of adults over 65 years of age suffer from a form of dementia. This is a broad mental condition that is chronic and progressive in nature. It involves mental impairment, where one’s memory, thinking and logical reasoning are compromised. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. 
  2. Depression. The WHO confirms that about 7% of seniors over the age of 60 suffer from a degree of depression. The disorder is characterised by a persistently low mood which can affect one’s quality of life. Often, senior citizens who are suffering from depression are left undiagnosed and untreated because their symptoms can co-occur with their other physical conditions. It’s important that depression is addressed in seniors because those with depression struggle to manage chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, as well as those seniors who do not have depressive symptoms. 
  3. Anxiety. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is very common among the elderly. The WHO confirms that almost 4% of adults over 60 are affected by anxiety disorders. The disorder is characterised by excessive worry, which could have physical side effects, like insomnia or an inability to concentrate. 
  4. Suicide. Older adults have a high rate of suicide. Experts believe that up to 90% of suicides and suicide attempts amongst the elderly are a result of untreated depression.

Why mental health issues are common in the elderly & are often misdiagnosed

The reason why mental health issues are common in the elderly population is thought to be declining health and loss of function. This could cause seniors to become distressed over their current physical state, especially if they require long-term care, leading to depression.

Social isolation and loneliness are also believed to be contributing factors when it comes to depression and anxiety amongst the elderly. A senior adult who has lost a spouse or partner is particularly vulnerable because they are now left alone and are without companionship. This is why it becomes important for families and communities to keep in touch with their senior citizens so that their mental health is not negatively affected.

Older people are also thought to experience and react differently to stress from younger people, which can exacerbate the problem of an anxiety disorder.

Mental health tips for seniors

There are various ways and methods to assist the elderly with mental health issues. Some of these include: 

  • Education and awareness. One of the best ways to deal with mental health disorders in the elderly is through mental health education and awareness. Mental health care practitioners, family members, communities and caregivers can promote mental health by discussing the condition and symptoms, thereby removing the stigma attached to mental health disorders, like depression. 
  • Access to health care facilities and services. Ensure that your elderly relative or friend can get the help they need with a health insurance plan. As one grows older, there is a greater risk of developing both physical and mental conditions. Discover the best health insurance plan for seniors. 
  • Mental health interventions. If you suspect that an elderly person is suffering from poor mental health, then prompt action is required. An intervention may involve counselling or medication, or a combination of both. Discover more about How to help someone with a mental health disorder. 
  • Community support. Community-led support networks are an important source of both physical and mental health care for the elderly. Caregivers and concerned volunteers can provide invaluable mental health support services for the elderly, who often live alone. 

Health insurance plans for pensioners

Mental health is a concern amongst the elderly and misdiagnosis is the reason why mental health issues are common in the elderly population. Quality, affordable health insurance for seniors is available through Momentum Health4Me. Members of the Health4Me Gold, Silver and Bronze medical insurance plans can receive major medical events, specialists and day-to-day benefits, dependent on the plan you choose to take. Compare options or contact our offices to speak to a trained consultant who can discuss your options, which are tailored to suit both your medical needs and your budget. 

Medical Content Disclaimer

You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.