Study: Mental illnesses in old age far more often than often assumed

Depression and Co: Mental illnesses in old age more often than expected
Experts have previously assumed that depression tends to affect younger and middle-aged people. However, a recent study now indicates that many seniors are also prone to mental illness.

Performance expectations are increasing
In today's world, stress and high performance expectations are increasing. This has an impact on all of us: Scientists recently reported that roughly every fourth person suffers from a mental disorder at some point in their lives.

In the past, the assumption was that older people were less susceptible to mental health problems, but a report by the Federal Statistical Office stated years ago: "An estimated one quarter of the 65-year-olds and older suffer from a mental disorder of some kind that Share roughly corresponds to the prevalence in middle age. Dementia and depression are particularly important. ”

Much more old people suffer from mental illnesses
An international team of researchers coordinated by Professor Dr. Martin Härter, director of the institute and the polyclinic for medical psychology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), found that significantly more old people suffer from mental illnesses than previously thought. In view of inadequate diagnostic procedures, however, these would often not be recognized.

Just two months ago, US scientists published a study that found increasing satisfaction and improved mental health in old age. But the current investigation comes to a different conclusion. It contradicts the assumption that the incidence of mental illness decreases in old age.

Looking back over a year, around a third of the 65 to 85-year-old study participants suffered from a mental illness and around a quarter of those surveyed showed a current mental illness, according to the UKE. The researchers published their results in the journal "British Journal of Psychiatry".

Conventional diagnostic tools unsuitable
The new, large-scale study in six European countries used innovative diagnostic methods to assess the mental state of older people. "The starting point was the assumption that the valid diagnostic procedures for adults are less suitable for diagnosing mental illnesses in older people," study leader Prof. Härter reports in the UKE press release. For example, older people would soon lose attention with conventional diagnostic tools and, in addition, "that the questions in previous diagnostic procedures were often quite long and complicated, which also caused problems for older people," reports the expert.

3,100 senior citizens examined
Together with Prof. Dr. Sylke Andreas, Dr. Jana Volkert and Prof. Holger Schulz from the UKE coordinated Prof. Härter's current studies, for which a new diagnostic tool was initially developed in the form of a computer-based interview with simplified sentences. Subsequently, “This procedure was used to examine 3,100 people aged 65 to 85 in Spain, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Israel and Switzerland,” the UKE said. The evaluations showed that a significant proportion of the test subjects suffered from mental illnesses.

Anxiety disorders and depression are particularly common in old age
"The results show a significantly higher incidence of mental illness in older people than previously assumed," reports the UKE: For example, a third of those questioned had a mental illness in the past year and a quarter of those questioned had a current mental illness . "The most common cases were anxiety disorders (17 percent) and depression (14 percent), which the respondents were ill with last year," said the university hospital.

More psychotherapy services are needed for the elderly
The researchers conclude that the numbers are alarming for older people, particularly in light of the health services offered so far. Here better and more reliable ways are urgently needed to determine whether older people suffer from a mental illness. This goes hand in hand with the urgent need to establish almost completely missing psychotherapeutic care offers for people of advanced age. In any case, the previous assessment of mental health in old age must be reconsidered. (fp, ad)

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Video: Psychological Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #28 (December 2021).