How does age affect a person’s mental health and why is it linked to the development of mental illness?

In a growing number of seniors, mental illness has become a serious threat to their overall well-being. According to the World Health Organization, psychological conditions like dementia and depression affect 15% of people aged 60 and over, and that percentage is expected to rise as the global population continues to age. To complicate matters the severity of these mental disorders can vary, and available treatments and management options are still quite limited. So what’s actually happening to your brain as you get older, and what can you do to safeguard your mental health?

Possible causes of mental illness among the elderly

Chronic disease, physical impairment, or pain – No longer feeling as vital or capable can have negative effects on your psyche, especially if you were formerly quite active.

Grief, loneliness, or significant life changes – The loss of a loved one or overwhelming feelings associated with moving into assisted living can sometimes trigger mental disorders.

Pharmaceutical interactions – Certain medications don’t mix well and can directly alter your mindset or behavior.

Common illnesses and mental disorders

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease – Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, both of which are characterized by the inability to recall basic information and formulate coherent thoughts. These conditions are often accompanied by negative, strange, or atypical behavior.

Depression and anxiety – These are two of the most common mental illnesses affecting adults worldwide. They can be tricky to distinguish, so we created this infographic to help you understand each condition.

Suicide – Without receiving adequate support, seniors are at greater risk for developing suicidal tendencies.

Chronic disease – Interestingly, chronic disease can both be a cause and a result of mental illness.

Approximately 171,000,000 seniors will suffer some mental health issue associated with aging, and this number will continue to grow as does the worlds’ population.  We as a society need to be proactive, and most importantly we need to arm ourselves with education.  The answers to the sufferings of our elderly our found in the youth, and adults of our society.  If we continue to deny that mental illness exists, and if we continue to stigmatize those who suffer with it we will never get to the point where we can discover and implement specialized treatment for the aged.

World Health Organization:


karenKaren is a great listener and a solid shoulder to lean on. She has a degree in History and English and a diploma in Counselling Skills. She struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. She understands the importance of having someone to talk to about your struggles. She loves singing, researching her genealogy, cheering for her favorite hockey teams, swimming, hiking and spending time with friends.

You can follow Karen on Twitter.

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