Mental Health Updates
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This week I reach the state pension age in the UK – 66 – which means I am now officially old. In fact, in two months I’ll be officially old in the US, where I live, and be able to receive full Social Security benefits. That’s good news in many ways, not least the fact that getting older is apparently good for my mental health.
Recent studies have shown that the mental health of older Americans has suffered much less during the coronavirus pandemic than that of younger people. A May study from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging found surprising emotional resilience in Americans ages 50 to 80.
In a survey conducted in January this year — when coronavirus deaths in the U.S. were at their peak — two-thirds of US seniors rated their mental health as excellent or very good and another quarter as good. My 90-year-old father went into lockdown on his own: Some studies have found that people over 80 reported less pandemic anxiety than their 65- to 74-year-old peers. Maybe I’m just not old enough to be that healthy.
In a March of this year’s Kaiser Family Foundation survey, Americans ages 18 to 29 were more than twice as likely as people over 65 (31 percent vs. 14 percent) to say that concerns or stress related to coronavirus are a major factor. impact on their mental health. Grandma also fared better: Nearly seven in 10 women under 30 said the pandemic had dealt them an emotional blow, compared with 36 percent of women around their grandmother’s age.
So what are all these seniors smoking? Maybe it’s what they drink. Another study from the University of Michigan found that 23 percent of 50- to 80-year-olds said they drank three or more drinks on a typical day of the pandemic, and 27 percent had six or more drinks in the past year. on one occasion. (The overall level of drinking was “very concerning,” according to Anne Fernandez, a psychologist at the university.)
But Helene, 79, and Jerry, 80, refugees from Philadelphia now living in Florida, cite more philosophical reasons: “We’re the second generation of the world war, nothing scares us,” Jerry said as I asked Helene over the phone what was happening. explained her pandemic mental fitness. Once she could get a word in, Helene said she wasn’t a “nervous Nellie” by nature, but added, “The younger generation isn’t prepared for life.”
Lynn, 80, a Denver suburban resident, agreed, saying, “You’ve been through so much at our age.” And David, 79, who is part of an African-American community in South Carolina that, like many non-white communities in the US, has been hit harder by Covid-19 than white people, says he “went pretty smoothly.” mainly because “we seniors don’t have the pressure that other people have: I didn’t work before Covid started and I don’t work after, so my life has pretty much stayed the same.”
The KFF study found a reason for the age difference that younger Americans were more likely to be stressed from losing their jobs during the pandemic and more likely to experience the added stress of parenting in an age of distance learning. It also found that older people can assume that depression is “a normal part of the aging process and so can go unrecognized and untreated”.
dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the University of Michigan and director of the Healthy Aging survey, rejects the idea that seniors seem happier just because they refuse to admit they have emotional problems: She was surprised to find that 87 percent of the respondents said they “feel comfortable talking about their mental health,” she notes.
And, of course, not all American seniors were ecstatic about the lockdown: Nearly one in five said their mental health deteriorated during the pandemic, and those in poor physical health or low income suffered the most.
Ashley Kirzinger, associate director at the KFF, says she is concerned about what could happen next: “Mental health seems to improve as we see light at the end of the tunnel, but if we eventually have to close again (like Covid -19 cases rise in the US), the mental health crisis could re-emerge. Even I don’t think I’m old enough to handle that yet.
The writer is a contributing columnist of The Washington City Times