Age Concern has criticised mental health services for failing to treat “the vast majority” of the two million people over 65 in England who show signs of depression.
A report for the charity’s latest campaign, Down But Not Out, says eight out of 10 people in this age group continue to suffer without any treatment due to “ageism” from GPs and other people.
The risk of depression increases with age and among older people is commonly triggered by bereavement, poor health, and moving into a care home, the charity says.
Age Concern’s director general Gordon Lishman said the charity would begin working with GPs “to improve the diagnosis of older people with depression and ensure that effective treatments are available to all, regardless of age”.
“It is scandalous that hundreds of thousands of older people may be denied treatment because depression is wrongly seen as a natural part of getting older,” Lishman said.
He added: “Without a major change in policy and practice, there will be 3.5 million older people in UK with symptoms of depression by 2021.
“The government and the NHS need to take action to stamp out ageist attitudes and practice, once and for all. The neglect of older people’s mental health ruins lives and must no longer be ignored.”
The Down But Not Out campaign also aims to encourage older people to recognise the symptoms of depression and seek help where necessary.
Study slams older people’s mental health care