According to a 2017 study green space has been shown to ameliorate depression and stress. Spending time in areas with abundant green space and low air pollution levels has been shown to have a positive impact on both physical and mental well-being. Being in green spaces with clean air can also improve cardiovascular health, boost the immune system, and even aid in recovery from illnesses or injuries. Exposure to nature can also improve cognitive function, boost creativity, and may even help with depression and anxiety.
It is difficult to determine the precise number of older adults in the UK who are affected by mental health issues, as mental health problems can be difficult to identify and may not always be reported or diagnosed. But around 22% of men and 28% of women over the age of 65 experience depression, anxiety, or dementia. This figure may be higher among older adults who are living in institutional care settings, such as nursing homes.
5 Signs that elderly people might be struggling with poor mental health
There are many potential reasons why older adults in the UK may experience mental health problems. Some of the most common factors that can contribute to mental health issues in older adults include:
- Physical health problems. Chronic physical health problems or disabilities can lead to mental health problems, as they can cause pain, discomfort, and a sense of loss of control.
- Social isolation. Older adults may experience social isolation due to the loss of loved ones, reduced mobility, or other factors. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
- Loss and grief. The loss of loved ones and other life changes, such as retirement or moving to a new location, can be difficult for older adults and can lead to grief and depression.
- Stress. Older adults may experience stress due to financial concerns, caregiving responsibilities, or other challenges.
- Dementia. Dementia is a common mental health problem among older adults, and it can cause a range of cognitive and behavioural symptoms.
Maintaining your mental health
There are steps that elderly individuals can take to promote their mental well-being, however. Here are a few suggestions:
- Stay connected with loved ones. Social connections are important for mental health at any age. Elderly individuals should make an effort to stay in touch with friends and family, whether through in-person visits, phone calls, or video chats.
- Engage in activities that bring joy. It’s important to find activities that bring happiness and purpose, whether that’s gardening, reading, volunteering, or spending time with pets.
- Seek professional help if needed. It’s OK to seek help from a mental health professional if feelings of sadness, loneliness, or other mental health concerns persist. A therapist or counsellor can provide support and coping strategies to help manage difficult emotions.
- Take care of physical health. Physical health and mental health are closely linked. Elderly individuals should make sure to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep to promote overall well-being.
- Get outside. Spending time outdoors, even in the winter months, can help improve mood and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
By taking care of their mental health, elderly individuals can improve their quality of life and enjoy their golden years to the fullest. It’s important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and self-care.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a neurophysiologist, explained: “The festive cheer has worn off, it’s cold and wet outside, and the short days are relentlessly cold and dark. This can be a perfect storm for depression, especially in older people for whom health problems and lack of mobility often mean getting out and about at this time of year is much harder. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation – even depression.
“Connection is so important during this time as is getting as much natural daylight as possible, especially first thing in the morning. If you know of someone who might be struggling on this day, please reach out and offer your support and company. Even a smile and a brief chat can go a long way to raising someone’s spirits if they are feeling down and it is important that we make time to do it.”