Mental Health in Older Adults – Forbes Health

Feeling depressed or sometimes worried is part of life. But if these feelings last longer than two weeks or are severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, it may be a sign of something more serious. It’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs of depression and anxiety, as these are two of the most common mental health issues faced by older adults.


More than two million of the 34 million American adults age 65 and older suffer from some form of depression, which is a significant predictor of suicide among adults age 65 and older in the United States, who make up 20% of all suicide deaths, according to Mental Health America. Symptoms of depression in older people can include:

  • Persistent sad mood occurring most of the day, almost every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities on the habit of enjoying
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism that last for several weeks
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, morning awakening, or excessive sleep
  • Increased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts, suicide plans and/or suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not improve over time, even after treatment

Older people experience the same stressors as other age groups, but additional stressors can accumulate later in life. These risk factors can include mobility problems, chronic pain and loss of autonomy. Older adults may also experience more social isolation and loneliness, grief, and a deterioration in their financial situation after retirement.


According to a study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Symptoms of anxiety can include excessive nervousness, fear and worry which can sometimes lead to other physiological symptoms such as chest pain, headache, sweating, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia , nightmares, dry mouth, nausea, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat. Mental Health America and the National Council on Aging note that generalized anxiety disorder — chronic, exaggerated worry about routine experiences that lasts longer than six months — is one of the most common anxiety disorders in older adults. Obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder are also forms of anxiety disorders, but are less common in older people.

Substance use and abuse

Nearly one million adults age 65 and older are diagnosed with a substance use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and about 65% of people age 65 and older report high-risk drinking, defined as more than 14 drinks per week. for men and 7 glasses per week for women. Older adults generally metabolize substances at a slower rate than those under 65, making them more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol. These substances can also exacerbate existing physical conditions and impair coordination and judgement, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Mental Health in Older Adults – Forbes Health

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