Elderly Americans More Susceptible to Depression, Suicide
> 7/7/2006 1:46:08 PM

With a deep-seated bias explored in this week's Washington Post commentary,many in our society dimiss the elderly as harmless, powerless andinconvenient. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons that mentalhealth issues among seniors are so often ignored, with devastatingresults. Some view depression and anxiety among seniors asinevitabilities resulting from inactivity and physical deterioration.Statistics, however, belie this rather callous position.

Of particular concern to specialists are suicide rates among men over 65years of age. Many Americans would be shocked to realize that theannual number of suicides in our country dwarfs the murder count. By aconsiderable margin, white men over 85 are the group at highest riskfor suicide. Their mean rate is almost six times the national averageat 59 per 100,000. The vast majority of their deaths are not related tophysical illness, and most do not seek treatment for mental healthproblems. For much of history, the public has accepted the blatantfalsehood that, as the elderly move into irrelevance, many of them willnaturally develop the desire to end their own lives prematurely.Ancient Greeks even offered elderly citizens the "option" of assistedsuicide if they could convince relevant tribunals that their lives wereof little value to the general public.  

Suicideis not a pleasant topic, and many concerned parties would rather focuson sensationalized violence, especially that of the celebrity variety.Whether willfully or not, people often ignore the suffering of theelderly, who are viewed as a marginal group in our society. There maycertainly be some truth to the opinion that monetary troubles, thedeaths of loved ones, and the onset of illness can contibute toproblems with depression. But are these factors aloneto blame for acts of suicide? Issues of mental health still do notreceive the attention they deserve in large parts of our society, andsenior citizens are much less likely to seek psychiatric treatment. Butwe need to take these Americans and their struggles just as seriouslyas those affecting younger generations. A problem so pervasive cannotbe ignored.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy