Mental health problems don’t end with age

After years languishing in the dark, mental illness is finally getting its moment in the spotlight. Frustrating political football it may be, but one thing can’t be denied – it’s making headlines more than ever. Focus, largely, has been on young people – crises in child and adolescent mental healthcare and in student populations have been both persistent and significant. But mental illness doesn’t end with reaching adulthood – often, in fact, it doesn’t end at all.

New research from the British Journal of Psychiatry into self-harm in older people puts this into stark perspective. A meta-analysis of 40 studies found that yearly self-harm rates were about 65 per 100,000 people, with risk of repetition and of suicide also higher than average. Self-harm is still seen as a problem among younger demographics; and while that remains true, this data proves that the issue is even more complex and diffuse than we thought.

The findings are not wholly surprising. In 2014, the World Health Organization found that suicide rates were highest in people aged over 70 in almost all regions of the world. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) also found that 40% of older people in GP clinics experience mental ill-health; this rose to 50% in general hospitals and 60% in care homes. And, as the Mental Health Foundation points out, the UK population is ageing rapidly – since 1974, the number of older people in the UK has grown by 47%. By 2027, the Office for National Statistics predicts, 20.7% of the UK population will be aged 65 or over, compared with 15.9% in 2007. The problem, clearly, is not going away.

Full story: Guardian

Author: Philip Challinor
Posted on: 10th April 2019