Stat of the day: Mental health in older age

By Angela Matthews

The World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to consider age and disability – particularly mental health in older age.

The WHO gives examples of factors in age that may impact and/or contribute to disability or long-term conditions. These examples include that for those who already have a disability when they reach older age (which, I’m afraid, the WHO considers to be anyone over the age of 60), limited mobility and pain can increase. For others, a number of social factors can feature – grief and bereavement or reduced income due to retirement, for example. The WHO warn that such factors can lead to isolation and loss of independence. What evidence do statistics give for this? (Note: The following represent disability worldwide.)

  • 20 per cent of older people have a mental health or neurological condition – the two most common being depression and dementia. This accounts for almost 7 per cent of older people’s disabilities;
  • Anxiety affects almost 4 per cent of people over 60;
  • Depression affects 7 per cent of people over 60;
  • 25 per cent of all deaths by self-harm are of people over the age of 60.

The WHO also notes that those with heart disease have higher rates of depression. This is an important observation on the relationship between mental and physical health and how, where a mental health condition such as depression goes untreated or is not given the appropriate attention, the positive or ‘successful’ outcome of the physical condition can be limited.

One of the WHO’s recommendations for trying to prevent mental health problems in older age is to encourage “active and healthy ageing” which, they say, should allow for integrated and balanced lifestyles. As there are an increasing number of people in the UK who remain in employment much beyond the age of 60, it is worth employers considering how their own policies and practices may be affected by older workers requesting to work flexibly to help achieve a better work/life balance. From next year, flexible working rights will be extended to allow anyone to make a flexible working request (i.e. not just those with parenting or caring responsibilities). How this will be managed by employers, or if there will be any increase in requests from older workers at all, we are yet to see.

Stat of the day: High Level Meeting on Disability 2013

By Angela Matthews

We saw in yesterday that the World Health Organisation’s HLMDD (code name for High Level Meeting on Disability and Development) took place in Geneva on Monday this week. The meeting was focused on improving access to healthcare and rehabilitation for the 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide. The meeting heard the Director-General of the World Health Organisation say that the most common barriers to accessing health care and rehabilitation are stigma, discrimination, lack of accessibility, and difficulty with paying.

Two types of statistics appear to have emerged from the meeting: (1) People with disabilities’ experience of health care compared with people who don’t have disabilities, and (2) lack of access to the provision of rehabilitation aids and equipment.

1.       Comparative Statistics:

  • People with disabilities are twice as likely to report that health care providers’ skills do not meet their needs;
  • People with disabilities are three times as likely to be denied healthcare;
  • People with disabilities are four times more likely to be treated badly when receiving health care.

2.       Access to aids and equipment:

  • Around half of the one billion people with disabilities cannot afford the healthcare they need and are 50 per cent more likely to suffer “catastrophic heath expenditure” that leads to poverty;
  • 360 million people have moderate to profound hearing loss, but the production of hearing aids only meets 10 per cent of the global need and just 3 per cent of the need in developing countries;
  • 200 million people needs glasses or low vision devices but have no access to them;

70 million people need a wheelchair, but only 5-15 per cent have access to them.