Mental Illness And Aging Essay
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Health, Psychology, Population, Mental Health, Depression, Disorders, Aging, Human
According to the World Health Organization (1948), health is not just an absence of disease in the body but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. The importance of mental health in contributing to general health of individual as well as other aspects of human life such as economy cannot be overlooked. It is because of this that mental health is now becoming one of the top priorities in terms of public health. An absence of good mental health can be termed as presence of mental illnesses and disorders. This affects a person's thinking, feeling or mood may affect and his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.
Despite the widespread nature of mental illness, it is worrying to note that the general population have little knowhow on these conditions. Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and happen to some particular people with most families not prepared to see their loved one has a mental illness.
Aging has been associated with mental illnesses in so many studies. As human beings get older the regenerative process of the cells begins to slow until it stops replacing them at all. This occurs to the brain cells too which then become slow in responding to stimuli. Thus over time memory tends to become less efficient as we age and the neurons in the brain decreases.
As the elderly population increases in USA, so will the incidence of age-related neurological disorders. Statistics show that 20% of individuals aged 55 years and above experience a particular type of mental disorder (Marshall, Chapman, & Lando, 2005). Censuses have also revealed that the size of the population over age 65 has soared during this century, increasing from 3 million in 1900 to 34.3 million today. Moreover, the population of people over 65 has tripled since 1940 and is projected to more than double again by 2050.
Some of the most common mental illnesses in aging population include depression, dementia, and anxiety. These mental disorders have been associated with so many factors. For instance, depression has been related to physical illnesses, excessive intake of alcohol, low educational attainment, and loss of husband or wife (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). Other factors behind mental illnesses include inability to control one’s thoughts, emotional, and behavioral dispositions. Moreover, economic challenges, ineffective social protections, poor living and working environments, poor national policies regarding mental health, and lack of community support groups.
Studies have also revealed that these mental illnesses and disorders are associated with other adverse health behaviors in the aging population. For instance, depression has been found to contribute to high rates of smoking which in turn lead to diseases such as cancer and high blood pressure (Balfour & Ridley, 2000). Furthermore a positive correlation has been found between depression and alcohol consumption (Witkiewitz &Villarroel, 2009). In another study by, depression was found to lead to poor sleep (Bostwick, 2010).
In conclusion, mental health challenges are bound to increase tremendously over the coming years as the number of aging population also rise in the US. This calls for increase in funding as well as in the number of professionals such as geropsychologists to help this population. Awareness on these illnesses should also be enhanced across the general population.
Balfour, D. J. & Ridley, D. L. (2000). The effects of nicotine on neural pathways implicated in depression: a factor in nicotine addiction? Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 66(1), 79-85
Bostwick, J. M. (2010). A generalist’s guide to treating patients with depression with an emphasis on using side effects to tailor antidepressant therapy. Mayo Clin Proc, 85(6), 538-550
Marshall, W. S., Chapman D., & Lando, J. (2005). The role of public health in mental health promotion. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 54(34), 841-842.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1999). Older Adults and Mental Health. In: Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter5/sec1.htm
Witkiewitz K. &Villarroel, N. A. (2009). Dynamic association between negative affect and alcohol lapses following alcohol treatment. J Consult Clin Psychol, 77, 633-644.
World Health Organization (1948). Constitution of the World Health Organization. Retrived from: http://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf (accessed June 23, 2008).