Aging and Mental Health

March 24, 2023 • Volume 33, Issue 11
Can the U.S. health system handle the needs of an expanding older population?
By Barbara Mantel


By 2034, the number of adults aged 65 and older is expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. Older adults face unique risks for mental illness, including the emotional stress from health disorders more common to older age, the loss of purpose that can accompany retirement and loneliness that can result from the death of friends and family. Yet their rates of mental illness, though significant, are lower than younger cohorts, for reasons that are not entirely clear. This trend is holding during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the higher risk to older Americans for severe illness and death from the virus. Still, relatives and many medical professionals often fail to recognize mental health problems in older people, mistakenly believing symptoms are a normal part of aging. Mental health professionals who specialize in treating the geriatric population are rare. Experts say primary care physicians must be better trained in basic geriatric psychiatry and collaborate with consulting psychiatrists to connect older adults to appropriate care.

Screenshot of elderly woman speaking with therapist, taken on March 17, 2023. (Screenshot/Center for Health Care Strategies)
Adults aged 65 and older are projected to outnumber children by 2034. As the share of Americans who are older increases, understanding this population's mental health needs becomes more important. Primary care doctors and other medical professionals need better training to understand mental health in the geriatric population as well as how ageism can hinder health care. (Screenshot/Center for Health Care Strategies)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mental Health
Mar. 24, 2023  Aging and Mental Health
Jul. 01, 2022  Youth Mental Health
Jul. 31, 2020  COVID-19 and Mental Health
Oct. 11, 2019  The Insanity Defense
Jul. 12, 2019  Suicide Crisis
Mar. 13, 2015  Prisoners and Mental Illness
Dec. 05, 2014  Treating Schizophrenia
Sep. 12, 2014  Teen Suicide
May 10, 2013  Mental Health Policy
Aug. 03, 2012  Treating ADHD
Jun. 01, 2012  Traumatic Brain Injury
Jun. 26, 2009  Treating Depression
Feb. 13, 2004  Youth Suicide
Feb. 06, 2004  Mental Illness Medication Debate
Mar. 29, 2002  Mental Health Insurance
Feb. 08, 2002  Treating Anxiety
Jul. 16, 1999  Childhood Depression
Jun. 18, 1999  Boys' Emotional Needs
Sep. 12, 1997  Mental Health Policy
Aug. 19, 1994  Prozac
Aug. 06, 1993  Mental Illness
Oct. 09, 1992  Depression
Jun. 14, 1991  Teenage Suicide
Jul. 08, 1988  Biology Invades Psychology
Feb. 13, 1987  The Mentally Ill
Aug. 20, 1982  Mental Health Care Reappraisal
Jun. 12, 1981  Youth Suicide
Sep. 21, 1979  Mental Health Care
Sep. 15, 1978  Brain Research
Jul. 05, 1974  Psychomedicine
Aug. 08, 1973  Emotionally Disturbed Children
Dec. 27, 1972  Mental Depression
Mar. 24, 1972  Schizophrenia: Medical Enigma
Apr. 21, 1971  Approaches to Death
Mar. 03, 1971  Encounter Groups
Nov. 25, 1970  Psychological Counseling of Students
Feb. 19, 1969  Future of Psychiatry
Feb. 02, 1966  New Approaches to Mental Illness
Jan. 22, 1964  Insanity as a Defense
Sep. 25, 1963  Anatomy of Suicide
Nov. 20, 1957  Drugs and Mental Health
Apr. 23, 1954  Mental Health Programs
Jul. 09, 1948  Mental Health
Aging Issues
Congress Actions
Elderly Health Issues
General International Relations
Genetic Disorders and Medical Genetics
Internet and Social Media
Medical Research and Advocacy
Mental Health
People with Mental Disabilities