Growing Mental and Behavioral Health Concerns Facing Older Americans

This article, by the American Psychological Association, sets forth concerns about the needs of the elderly population.  We all think that getting older comes with health issues, but the truth is that doesn’t have to be the way it is for our elderly population.

Mental health issues cause various problems, but when treatment is received those problems could become minor.  Unfortunately, most people don’t get any treatment.

Please read this article and discover the growing concerns facing older Americans.

Growing Mental and Behavioral Health Concerns Facing Older Americans

As America’s population ages, the need for mental and behavioral health services continues to increase. Psychologists are playing a critical role in addressing these needs.  Psychologists are studying and treating the mental and behavioral problems associated with growing old, such as loss of spouse, loss of mobility and independence, admittance to a long-term care facility and declining physical and sometimes mental health.  Some of the most critical concerns facing older Americans today are highlighted below.

Mental Health Concerns

  • Twenty percent of people over 55 suffer from a mental disorder, and 2/3rds of nursing home residents exhibit mental and behavioral problems.  Yet, less than 3% of older adults report seeing a mental health professional for their problems.1
  • Older Americans underutilize mental health services because of inadequate funding for mental health services; lack of collaboration and coordination among primary care, mental health and aging service providers; access barriers; stigma surrounding mental illness and treatment; denial of problems; and lack of trained professionals in the provision of geriatric mental health services.1
  • Fear, distress, anger, stress, social support, and relaxation have been shown to influence immune and cardiac functions, susceptibility to infection, pain, asthma and recovery from surgery.2

Depression and Suicide

  • As many as 20% of older adults in the community and up to 37% of nursing home residents suffer from depression, a condition that may lead to suicide.1
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety in older Americans are overlooked and untreated because they often coincide with other medical illnesses or life events that commonly occur as people age (e.g., loss of loved ones).3
  • Even though older Americans only make up 13% of the population, they account for 20% of the people who commit suicide.  In fact, older Americans have the highest suicide rate of any age group.4
  • Three-fourths of older adults who commit suicide have seen their physician in the past month.5

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

  • Dementia, the irreversible deterioration of intellectual ability–often accompanied by emotional disturbances- afflicts as many as 7% of Americans over the age of 65 and 30% over age 85.  People with dementia often suffer from depression, paranoia, and anxiety.5
  • Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia..(read the rest here)
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