Many older people have worse depression, anxiety during the pandemic

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In a new study from Michigan Medicine, researchers found many people report worse depression, anxiety, sleep and overall mental health in the past year.

Certain groups – those 50 to 64, women, those with higher levels of education and those who say their physical health is fair or poor – are more likely to have experienced worsened mental health during the first nine months of the pandemic

The researchers recommend that health providers screen older adults for symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleep problems brought on or worsened by the pandemic, and help them connect to resources and care.

In the study, the team used the data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, which included more than 2,000 older adults nationwide.

While 20% of all older adults in the national sample reported worse mental health during the pandemic, people in these subgroups were much more likely to report this.

Adults ages 65 through 80 were less likely to report such effects, a sign of resilience in this age group.

The team found that women were more likely to have discussed mental health concerns during the pandemic with their primary care physician, or to consider taking medication to treat a mental health concern brought on by the pandemic.

The poll also revealed hopeful signs that many older adults are showing long-term resilience. Two-thirds say their current mental health is excellent or very good.

Just over 80% say their mental health is as good as, or better than, it was 20 years ago.

Nearly one in three (29%) say that they have made a lifestyle change to improve their mental health since the start of the pandemic such as exercise, diet, and meditation.

These findings showed doctors need to continue to look for and address the mental health effects of the pandemic and connect people to treatment resources.

Poor mental health can decrease functioning, independence, and quality of life for older adults but treatment can strongly help.

If you care about depression and anxiety, please read studies about this sleep apnea therapy may help treat depression and findings of depression symptoms could be signs for cognitive decline in some people.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about depression could be a cause of 20 major diseases and results showing that these dietary supplements may help treat depression, schizophrenia.

The study is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. One author of the study is Lauren Gerlach, D.O., M.Sc.

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