How Aging Affects Our Mental Health
Discover how aging affects our mental health in this informative piece.
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Learn how aging affects our mental health? Here we explore its effects on how we think and feel, and how modern science has advanced our understanding of the matter.
Thomas Nemel is a passionate writer based in Detroit, Michigan. He has researching mental health in patients with dementia. Thomas is also passionate about cars and moto, traveling and camping, fitness and sustainable living.
One of the most fascinating subjects in the field of research on mental health disorders is studying the effects of aging on their incidence and progression. A fresh mental health diagnosis on senior patients can have a significant impact on their treatment regimen and outcome.
That’s why it’s important to study the link between mental health and behavior, and be knowledgeable of how, as humans age, their mental state can be affected by physiological changes.
In this article, we’re going to share some interesting mental health facts and explore how aging may correlate with the onset of mental health conditions in older adults and seniors.
This article intends to raise mental health awareness and encourage you to be proactive about your own health, as well as that of your loved ones. That includes visiting sites like Gym Expert to find out tips on how you can follow a proper fitness and dietary regimen that will allow you to lead a healthy life.
Read more below about what we know so far about mental health and wellness in advanced age, and what we expect to improve upon in the future.
Declining mental health does not affect all seniors.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 20% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a neurological or mental disorder, and 15% from a mental health disorder.
These numbers may seem low, but, as WHO points out, the global population of people aged over 60 is expected to double in the course of the next few decades, and is expected to reach 22% by the year 2050.
This essentially means that the general public needs to soon come in to support mental health initiatives that will offer primary care solutions to the global aging population.
But, before we look at what lies ahead, we need to understand what mental health illnesses disproportionately affect seniors; the ways with which they manifest, and what can be done to prevent or treat them.
The aging brain and cognitive decline
From a physiological standpoint, here’s what happens to our brain when it ages:
Brain volume decreases at around 5% per decade.
Starting from age 40, our brains shrink by losing part of its weight. Science also shows that the shrinkage may accelerate past the age of 70, but there is no hard data on the exact rate.
While this may seem like a minor change, other brain structures are affected, too.
In addition to a decrease in brain volume, aging is also related to changes in synapses, which are essential structures for neuron function. This loss of said structures has been described as sometimes being akin to those who have suffered from traumatic brain injury.
But, more research needs to be done in order to specify to what extent these changes impact brain function.
As we age, we feel our bodies changing, and in more ways than one.
It’s not unusual for our physical capabilities to start diminishing first. Still, often, it’s not until our mental capacity is affected in some way before we realize that time has begun taking its toll on us.
But, there is a difference between feeling a little bit aloof, or like you have to pay closer attention to your schedule than what you used to, and having severe neurological or mental health issues.
Mental health issues in seniors
Having described some of the changes that occur on an anatomical and physiological level, we are now going to take a look into the conditions that present more frequently in seniors and the elderly:
- Chronic disease resulting from mental illness, such as insomnia, drug or alcohol dependency, and other psychosomatic conditions.
Quite often, there’s comorbidity between physical and mental illnesses and multiple mental illnesses that manifest as a cluster. It would be important to note that the incidence of mental illness in the elderly is related to structural changes in the brain and a host of other factors.
Most importantly, loneliness, the loss of a spouse or loved one, grief, and isolation can be mitigating factors in a declining mental health state. All in all, it’s essential to take all factors into account so that a comprehensive approach towards prevention and treatment can be adopted at the earliest time possible.
Final thoughts on how aging affects our mental health
Aging is inevitable, and its effects are mostly, and at least for now, irreversible. That doesn’t mean, however, that we must succumb to our fate and let those golden years pass without enjoying all that life has to offer. Growing older can mean growing bolder, so the prospect of declining mental faculties shouldn’t worry you.
So far, science has made great strides in brain and mental health research. Thanks to advances in technology, it’s expected that we’ll be able to get answers to many lingering questions with regards to mental health and aging, as well as the incidence of neurological disorders in seniors.
Until then, the best thing one can do is stay on top of their health and be vigilant about any changes in their behavior or overall wellbeing. After all, prevention is critical, and being mindful about any changes in your physical or mental state can help you act in time to resolve any issues that may arise in time.