Old problems, new solutions

Alistair Burns is Professor of Old Age Psychiatry and Vice Dean for the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at The University of Manchester. He is the National Clinical Director for Dementia and Older Peoples’ Mental Health, NHS England. This blog was originally published on the NHS England website. He will be speaking at the upcoming BGS Autumn Meeting in London.

As now seems to be tradition, let’s start with some statistics.

Up to four out of ten people over the age of 65 experience mental health problems. Depression is both the most common and most treatable mental illness in old age, affecting one in five older people in the community. This figure doubles in the presence of physical illness and trebles in hospitals and care homes. Nor should we forget that older people also experience severe mental illnesses.

About one fifth of all suicides happen in older people. Risk factors include: being male, being widowed, increasing age, social isolation, physical illness – present in up to 80 per cent of cases – pain, alcohol misuse and depressive illness past or present. Continue reading