Published July 11, 2012
Aging doesn't just mean a risk of physical ailments like heart disease and bum knees: A new report finds as many as 1 in 5 seniors has a mental health or substance abuse problem.
As the population rapidly ages over the next two decades, millions of Baby Boomers may have a hard time finding care and services for mental health problems such as depression because the nation lacks the doctors, nurses and other health workers trained for their needs, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, said Tuesday.
Instead, the nation is focused mostly on preparing for the physical health needs of what's been called the silver tsunami.
Already, at least 5.6 million to 8 million Americans age 65 and older have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder, the report found. Depressive disorders and psychiatric symptoms related to dementia are the most common.
While the panel couldn't make precise projections, those numbers are sure to grow as the number of seniors nearly doubles by 2030, said report co-author Dr. Peter Rabins, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University.
Merely getting older doesn't make mental health problems more likely to occur, Rabins said, noting that middle age is the most common time for the onset of depression.
But when they do occur in older adults, the report found that they're too often overlooked and tend to be more complex.