Aging and Health in The U.S.

Mental health is crucial to well-being and overall health of all Americans, including the older people, and must be addressed with the same exigency as physical health. Because of this, mental health has become an important part of the country’s public health mission. As a matter of fact, the mental health of older adults has been one of the priorities in the 2005 White House Conference on Aging and the Healthy People 2010 objectives.

The following facts on aging and mental health in America were gathered using the American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of Chronic Disease (NACD), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) data:

Life satisfaction/dissatisfaction

Life satisfaction is defined as the self-evaluation of one’s life in general. It is influenced by health, environmental, and socioeconomic factors. The NACD and CDCP data reveal that around 95% of older Americans 50 years of age or older are generally satisfied.

However, 5.8% of those in the age range 50-64 feel dissatisfied with their lives compared to 3.5% of adults 65 years of age or older who are also dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction in life is linked with obesity, physical inactivity, heavy drinking, and smoking.

Older Americans and their mental health needs

According to the APA, the fastest growing group of people in the country are those adults 65 years old and older. About 75% of older adults in the nursing and 20% of community home residents have some form of mental disorder. The following are the most common type of mental health disorders experienced by older adults: cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression.

Older Americans and their unmet mental health needs

APA reports that older adults do not fully utilize mental health services. In fact, about 50% of those who suffer from mental disorders receive treatment. Also, only 3% of older Americans consult with mental health professionals.

Data also show that many of them see primary care physicians. The problem with this is that many of these professionals do not have adequate training in assessing and treating behavioral and mental health concerns.

Social and emotional support

According to NACD and CDCP, adequate social support is correlated with reduced risk of mortality, mental illness, and physical illness. Basically, support for older Americans serves major support functions such as emotional support, informational support, and instrumental support.

Data show that almost 90% of older Americans 50 years or older receive adequate amounts of social and emotional support. 12.2% of adults 65 years of age or older and 8.1% of adults aged 50-64 never or rarely receive the support they need.