Loneliness is at an all time high amongst the Elderly, is it time to make a change?
CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
Mental health has finally became something not only us as a society will talk about but the mainstream media will as well. But despite this, more and more people are struggling with mental health as everyday passes; so clearly whatever we are doing know isn't working.
Surely it's time we reassess the way we live and think about mental illness, otherwise how many more will have to suffer?
The Mental Health Crisis
Following the effects of the pandemic, opening up and discussing mental health has became a far more common place practice. With around a third of people having dealt with their mental health getting 'much worse' since March 2020.
This is generally accepted to be down to the limited social interactions with friends and family, increased time inside and worrying about catching Covid itself. But mental health had been a massive social concern for years prior to this, and had been affecting more and more people than ever year upon year; the pandemic didn't create the mental health crisis, so what did?
One of the biggest factors that play on mental health in modern life is social media. All though it sounds cliché to suggest that all our problems stem from looking at our phones, there is an undeniable relationship.
This mainly stems from the false nature that social media portrays. We're constantly forced to look at everyone else selling a false life and image to the rest of us, photoshopped images and fake smiles which we can't help but subconsciously compare ourselves too. This links into the current issues with body image that so many are struggling with in the modern age.
Another big aspect is the limited access to material gain so many of us experience, with the cost of living rising astronomically and the rate of pay increasing so much slower. We're convinced through relentless advertising that we need to have the latest and most expensive products released which feeds into the unattainable lifestyle which is so prevalent in celebrity culture and social media. This in turn, leaves a lot of people feeling unfulfilled with their lives and what they have, which is fundamentally an unavoidable aspect of capitalism, but is worsened by the rise of consumerism.
Mental Illness in the Elderly
The Elderly are not as likely to be affected by these issues as younger people would do, but that's not to say they're not affected by mental illness.
Loneliness is one of the biggest causes of depression, before the pandemic there were at least 1.4 million people over the age of 50 who were dealing with loneliness, which is expected to rise to 2 million by 2026. There are multiple reasons why so many more people in this age group are a lot more likely to be dealing with loneliness such as bereavement and digital exclusion, which really leave the elderly feeling excluded.
The pandemic has also had a massive effect on the Elderly, with Age U.K reporting that nearly 2 in 3 people are less confident using public transport and that nearly half feel less confident going to the shops.
Depression affects 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 and over, but rather worryingly it is estimated that almost 85% of old people with depression receive no help from the NHS. Anxiety amongst pensioners has also increased following the rise in cost of public transport and heating, more pensioners than ever are struggling financially and can't receive any support.
Call to action?
The vast majority of old people struggling with mental health are unable to access or gain support, whether that be through not having a support network or being able to access any help online. That being said, there is such a short amount of care available to old people anyway- our society is struggling to find time to accommodate for the ever increasing ageing population; meaning there are more and more old people than ever, as the number of over 65s has increased by 23% from 2009-2019.
We as a younger generation are far more open minded in regard to mental health, it is really down to us to support and reach out to the elderly to show it is ok to open up about any mental health issue.