Mental Health Day-2013: call to care for the aged

Projections indicate people aged 60 and above will increase to over 2 billion by 2050 and so will the number of people suffering from mental health problems

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Thursday 10 October 2013

With the greying population increasing in the world, mental health problems like dementia and depression are becoming more acute. Keeping this in view, the World Health Organization decided to dedicate the Mental Health Day this year to the older people of the planet. Here are some of the facts that make a strong case for us to take care of our grandparents, and not let them feel out of place.

Greying world

  • Over 800 million people in the world are aged 60 and above
  • Projections indicate this figure will increase to over 2 billion by 2050. The number of older adults will exceed the number of young
  • Population of old in developing nations is expected to become higher in proportion than that of the developed nations, which should sound the alarm for countries like India

Reasons for mental health problems specific to adults

  • Biological deterioration of brain
  • Social and cultural factors like maltreatment of elderly. WHO defines elder maltreatment as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person”
  • Elder maltreatment includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and self-respect
  • In high-income countries where data exists, around 4-6% of older persons have experienced some form of maltreatment at home

Dementia, the notorious culprit

  • The most common form of the old-age mental disease is dementia. It is a syndrome involving deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities such as dressing, eating, personal hygiene and toilet activities
  • According to WHO, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases worldwide
  • A report by Alzheimer's Disease Association International (ADI) indicates that 35.6 million people are living with the disease
  • 35.6 million people have dementia
  • 7.7 million new cases are added every year
  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases
  • Total global societal costs estimated to be US $604 billion
  • Societal cost is 1.0% of the worldwide gross domestic product (GDP)
  • Prevalence of depression, the second most common disease among the old, is 1.6%

WHO's comprehensive action plan

  • The latest World Health Assembly of May 24, 2013 considered older people to be a vulnerable group with a high risk of experiencing mental health problems in its report “Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2020”
  • One of the key focus areas of the report was to shift from a purely medical model of care to the notion of recovery. It recommended addressing income generation and education opportunities, housing and social services and other social determinants of mental health in order to ensure a comprehensive response to mental health

Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2020

The Mental Health Care Bill, 2012

Mental disorders in megacities: Findings from the São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey, Brazil

Mental Health Atlas 2011

Empowerment of women and mental health promotion: a qualitative study in rural Maharashtra, India

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