1 in 4 older people live with mental health issues. It is hard enough coping with the ageing process and managing your life independently, so feeling anxious isn’t just something that comes with age, it may be a sign that something is wrong with your mental health.
Older people’s health is often complex. The number of people living with long-term conditions is increasing – just over half of people aged 65-74 live with at least one long-term health condition, increasing to nearly two-thirds of those aged 85 and over. For some older people, treating these types of conditions is a priority and seen as more important than their mental health.
Age UK has commissioned some research and found that there were three main reasons why older people were not accessing the help available to them.
Older people do not want to talk about their mental health
Whilst open conversations about mental health have thankfully become more common, their research showed that ingrained attitudes towards mental health are preventing older people from seeking help. Older people associate the term ‘mental health’ with being labelled ‘crazy’, so are reluctant to discuss their feelings, particularly with a professional.
Low mood seen as a natural part of ageing
It seems that the majority of older people do not seek help for mental health problems as they feel a low mood is just a natural part of ageing. But being worried, low and out of sorts may not be just part and parcel of getting older – they could be important signs that someone is not feeling as well as they could be. Living alone, social isolation, a recent bereavement or being a carer to a relative or partner are all risk factors for developing a mental health problem.
Mental health considered less important than physical health
Only around 1 in 10 people who took part in the research said they would put their mental health before their physical health. Many older people only notice physical symptoms, such as always being tired, an increased heart rate, feeling dizzy or sick, and moving or talking slower than usual. These symptoms can all be signs of a mental health problem, but are often mistaken for other health conditions, such as high blood pressure.
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