Prevalence of mental disorders in seniors higher than thought

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More seniors are affected by mental disorders than previous studies have suggested, according to new research in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers from Spain, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Israel and Switzerland set out to analyze the challenges that arise when typical mental diagnostic methods are used on older adults.

Seniors often struggle to remain attentive when confronted with traditional diagnostic methods, which rely on long and complicated questions. In addition to that, little is known about the mental disorders that commonly affected seniors outside of dementia and depression, researchers noted.

A new, computer-based diagnostic tool was used to examine 3,100 adults ages 65 to 85 across the research countries. The updated results found that one-third of study participants had suffered from some type of mental disorder within the previous year; one-quarter were currently diagnosed.

The most common mental disorders identified in the study were anxiety disorders, followed by affective disorders such as depression, and substance-related disorders.

“These findings underscore the need for improving diagnostic assessments adapted to the cognitive capacity of elderly people,” the researchers wrote. “There is a need to raise awareness of psychosocial problems in elderly people and to deliver high-quality mental health services to these individuals.”