Study slams older people’s mental health care

More than 3.5 million older people with mental health problems do not receive adequate services and support, a four-year independent inquiry found today.

The final report from the UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life, backed by Age Concern, found that older people with mental health problems were often ignored and called on the government to overturn years of under-funding for services for the group.

It said problems affecting older people with mental health problems – including the extreme under-diagnosis of depression – had been highlighted since 2000 but the situation had not improved.

The report revealed mental health problems affect more older people than previously thought, finding that up to 2.6 million older people – one in four people over 65 and two in five people over 85 – are suffering depression or serious symptoms of depression and one in five people over 85 suffer dementia.

It found there are not enough services for older people with longstanding mental health problems such as schizophrenia.

The inquiry made 35 recommendations for ways to improve mental health services for older people including action to eliminate age discrimination in mental health services and to challenge stigma.

Dr June Crown, the inquiry chair, said: “Mental health problems in later life are not an inevitable part of ageing. They are often preventable and treatable, and action to improve the lives of older people who experience mental health difficulties is long overdue. Current services for older people with mental health problems are inadequate in range, in quantity and quality.”

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