Is ageing a mental health problem?
Today is World Mental Health Day, and in celebration we’re taking a look at the attitudes towards ageing and mental health…
Is ageing a mental health problem? We don’t think so.
There’s no denying though that in the media there is sometimes a tendency though to view ageing negatively; dementia and depression are often mentioned when talking about older people as an eventual outcome. But is this really the case?
The truth is mental health problems are not just a normal and inevitable part of the ageing process. The reality is just the opposite – according to the Mental Health Foundation the majority of older people enjoy good mental health and make valuable contributions to society. Separate studies have shown people over the age of 55 on average have more life satisfaction and better mental health than people aged 25 – 54. Workers in their 50s and over contribute £230 billion annually to the national economic output – that’s about a quarter of the total economy.
Today, life expectancy is long – many people are comfortably living into their eight or ninth decade, and by 2020 it’s expected there will be more than 12.5 million people over the age of 65 in the UK.
We all want our later years to be healthy and happy – and a good mental health is an important piece of that puzzle. For many years it’s been neglected – or misrepresented – but thanks to the efforts of charities around the world and initiatives like World Mental Health Day, people are becoming more aware of their mental health and overcoming the stigmas once associated with mental illness.
Promoting good mental health
The most common mental health problem for people later in life is depression, and being aware of the risks can help you make sure you’re promoting good mental health in yourself, your friends and your family – particularly any older dependents who might be in your care.
Promoting good mental health is less complicated than you might think. Factors like having reasonable physical health, positive social relationships, adequate income, having something to do and being treated with respect all have a positive impact on mental health and can help reduce the risk of dementia or depression as we age.
Staying active, participating in meaningful activity and having a sense of purpose are the foundations of a high quality of life at any age, but the difference as we get older is there may be more barriers to achieving these things – less attention is given to over 65s in the media compared with teenagers and parents, and being excluded from the workforce after retirement leaves many without a clear sense of direction.
One of the most positive steps we can take towards promoting good mental health as we age is being aware of the challenges and taking a proactive approach to make sure there are meaningful opportunities to participate and contribute in society through our hobbies, interests, responsibilities and relationships.
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