In a concerning trend, individuals aged between 70 and 79 experienced a staggering 60 per cent increased in suicides last year. This rise in suicide rates among the elderly population is a matter of great concern. It highlights the need for targeted support and intervention for this vulnerable group.
Increased risks of mental health conditions among older adults are well reported. However, discussing mental health remains a taboo topic among seniors, contributing to a lack of awareness and understanding of their emotional well-being. Today, we will discuss the factors that are associated with mental health challenges among seniors in Singapore.
Social Isolation among seniors in Singapore
As individuals enter older age, social isolation becomes a significant factor that contributes to an increased risk of suicide. Aging often brings changes in one’s social circumstances, including a decrease in social interactions and a shrinking social network. The loss of loved ones, such as spouses, friends, or family members, can further intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation.
In Singapore, 62 per cent of seniors do not have someone to turn to when they have personal difficulties. 6 per cent were found to be socially disconnected.
Social isolation can have detrimental effects on mental health and well-being. Humans are inherently social beings, and meaningful social connections play a vital role in our emotional and psychological health. When seniors experience social isolation, they may lack the emotional support, companionship, and sense of belonging that come with regular social interactions.
Moreover, social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, which can have a profound impact on mental health. Loneliness is a subjective experience characterised by a sense of emptiness, disconnectedness, and a longing for social connection. It can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Deteriorating physical health can contribute to poor mental wellness
Deteriorating physical health is a significant contributing factor to the increased risk of suicide among the elderly. As individuals age, they may face the onset or progression of chronic illnesses, disabilities, and limitations in mobility. These physical challenges can have a profound impact on their quality of life, independence, and overall well-being.
Coping with deteriorating physical health such as sarcopenia can be emotionally and mentally taxing. Dealing with chronic pain, disability, or the loss of physical abilities can lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness, and a sense of being a burden to others. The physical limitations may also restrict participation in activities that were once enjoyable or meaningful, further diminishing one’s sense of purpose and satisfaction in life.
The emotional toll of dealing with physical health challenges can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. The constant struggle with pain, limitations, and the uncertainty of the future can create a sense of despair and hopelessness, leading to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions.
Depression and anxiety is higher among seniors
Depression and anxiety are prevalent mental health issues among the elderly population. These conditions can have a significant impact on their overall well-being and quality of life. Factors such as life transitions, health concerns, and social isolation can contribute to the development or exacerbation of depression and anxiety in older adults. Depression, in particular, is closely associated with an increased risk of suicide.
Mental health conditions are particularly tricky among seniors because of poor awareness. Seniors may not be aware that they are experiencing depression and may even perceive low moods are a normal part of aging. They may attribute their low moods to external factors such as the loss of loved ones, physical health challenges, or the changes and limitations that come with getting older. This normalisation of low mood can lead to a dismissal of their own emotional struggles. This is a significant problem because it perpetuates the notion that mental health issues are not a legitimate concern for older adults. As a result, seniors may suffer in silence, experiencing prolonged periods of sadness, hopelessness, and isolation without understanding that there is help available to them.
Depression and other mental health issues may be viewed as a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of, leading to reluctance in acknowledging or discussing their feelings with others. Additionally, the symptoms of depression in older adults may differ from those in younger individuals, which can make it harder for seniors to recognise that they are experiencing a mental health condition.
Depression can be difficult to detect among seniors
Older adults may express depression differently than younger individuals. Rather than openly expressing feelings of sadness, they may exhibit irritability, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, and physical complaints such as chronic pain or fatigue. These atypical symptoms can make it challenging to recognise depression in seniors and may lead to underdiagnosis or misinterpretation of their emotional state. Furthermore, seniors often have multiple chronic health conditions, which can complicate the detection of depression. Symptoms of depression may be intertwined with physical ailments, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.
Cognitive decline or impairment, such as mild cognitive impairment or dementia, can frequently coexist with depression in older adults. The symptoms of cognitive impairment, such as memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with daily activities, can overlap with depressive symptoms. This can make it difficult to distinguish whether the observed changes in cognition are primarily due to depression or underlying cognitive impairment. Close evaluation and collaboration between mental health professionals and specialists in geriatric care are essential to provide accurate diagnoses and appropriate interventions.
Seniors may also under underreport their low moods. Communication barriers can make it difficult for seniors to effectively express their emotions. Cognitive decline, hearing impairments, and language barriers can hinder their ability to communicate their emotional state. Seniors may also hesitate to report their depression due to fears of burdening their loved ones or caregivers. They may feel a sense of pride or desire to maintain their independence, leading them to downplay or hide their feelings. Furthermore, some seniors may lack awareness and self-recognition of their depressive symptoms.
How can a chiropractor help with the mental health of seniors in Singapore?
Chiropractors are not mental health professionals. However, our scope in musculoskeletal health can help promote physical well-being. Furthermore, exercises have been shown to help with depression. Research shows exercise is almost as effective as psychotherapy and better than medication.
You may be surprise to learn that exercise can not only promote cognitive function but reverse cognitive decline. Six months of exercise have been shown to reverse cognitive decline by up to nine years among seniors.
While chiropractors may play a role in promoting overall wellness, it’s crucial to seek appropriate care and support from mental health experts when dealing with suicide prevention or related concerns. When it comes to addressing suicide risk in seniors, it is essential to involve qualified healthcare professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, or geriatric specialists. These professionals can co-manage with seniors to help them achieve physical, mental, and social well-being.
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Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.
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