Half of over-55s have faced mental health issues

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Nearly half of adults aged over 55 have experienced anxiety or depression, says the charity Age UK.

New research by the charity reveals that 7.7 million adults aged over 55 report experiencing depression and 7.3 million have suffered from anxiety, highlighting the scale of mental health challenges faced by older people in the UK today.

Following these findings, Age UK will be uniting with NHS England to enable older people to seek help and is calling on GPs to identify the signs of mental health illnesses.

Last month, NHS England issued guidelines to help GPs spot the signs of multiple mental health problems predominantly faced by older people.

Poor health (24%), financial concerns (27%) and death of loved ones (36%) are the primary triggers for mental health issues in older people. However, more than one-third (35%) report not knowing where to go for help and support.

Director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, emphasized the lack of awareness about effective treatments beyond ‘taking pills’, which creates a barrier to seeking medical help among older people.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the charity’s research. She said: ‘Older people are potentially vulnerable and we have to be careful that we don't normalize depression and anxiety as a routine part of ageing…

‘It is essential that we strive to give mental health the same parity of esteem that physical health problems have – in the NHS and throughout society ‒ and in doing so reduce some of the unfortunate, and unwarranted, stigma that some patients face.’

She added: ‘GPs are expert medical generalists and are highly trained to deal with patients of all ages with mental health conditions, and prescribe accordingly and appropriately.’