Baby boomers are the largest generation in the United States, and as they age they will be one of the youngest groups in the country, at least statistically. But even as they are older, that does not mean that they do not need mental health care, according to new findings from an influential study. The study, which was published in the May issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at the mental health histories of Boomers – those born during the post World War II baby boom – and found that they had significantly higher rates of serious mental health disorders than other age groups. In fact, they were more likely to develop a serious mental illness or disorder than the average age group. The researchers called their findings “confounding.”
Among the mental disorders that appeared to be associated with the Boomers were depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia. The study looked at those who were in their forties and older. For baby boomers, age was a significant factor in the likelihood of developing one disorder or another, but it did not seem to be a cause or prevention factor. Of those who developed a disorder, about half were in their sixties; another quarter were in their seventies; and another fifth were in eighties.
About one third of all adults in this age group are affected by depression, which can lead to suicide if untreated. It is estimated that 20 percent of adults experience depression at some point during their lives. The researchers found that those in the prime of life – those in their thirties through eighties – were at higher risk of developing a chronic mental health condition like depression. They also linked chronic depression with a three-fold increased risk of suicide. The researchers theorized that these risk factors become much more prevalent in older adults because depression often develops after a period of depression, as the disease worsens.
Those in this older age group are at greater risk of developing chronic depression because of their increased vulnerability to changes in environmental circumstances and changes in their bodies. Boomers are more likely to live with physical illnesses than younger people. They also have more health problems including problems associated with their diets and their stress levels. Boomers tend to take less care of themselves physically than other generations. These factors may contribute to depression.
It is important for older adults to seek treatment for any mental illness, especially if they have a history of suicide attempts or other psychiatric problems. Depression is a common symptom of mood and stress related illnesses. Many people in this older adult age group are at a higher risk of developing depression because of the increased health concerns of working longer hours and staying in jobs that do not offer opportunities for mental stimulation. This can lead to more complications in dealing with stress-related illnesses, such as depression, which can cause more health problems. The good news is that depression is treatable. There are many mental health professionals who can help those suffering from depression.
It is important for everyone to be aware of the dangers of depression. Even though baby boomers are now entering the ages of retirement, the dangers of depression can still happen to them. If you suspect someone you know may be suffering from depression, you should talk to him or her immediately. The sooner the problem is addressed, the less likelihood it has of becoming a more serious health concern.