Report Examines Serious Psychological Distress in Adults Over 50

Posted on September 18th, 2009
Posted in Mental Health

Serious psychological distress (SPD) can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to function and impair their ability to live a normal and healthy life. To gain a better understanding of how SPD impacts those of the older generation, data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was captured in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report: Serious Psychological Distress Among Adults Aged 50 or Older: 2005 & 2006.

In 2006, there were an estimated 24.9 million adults over the age of 18 who had experienced SPD in the past year in the United States. This figure represents 11.3 percent of all adults in this country. Gathered data suggests older adults with certain mental health disorders are more likely than their younger counterparts to have higher levels of cognitive and functional impairment and lower rates of use of acute mental health services.

For the studied year, the annual average of adults aged 50 and older who have experienced SPD in the past year was 7.0 percent. The prevalence of dealing with SPD appeared to vary by demographic characteristics. For those in this age range, past year SPD was more likely among females than males. It also appeared to be more likely for those with less than a high school education than for those with higher levels of education.

There also was a higher tendency for SPD among adults with an annual family income of less than $20,000 compared with those of higher family incomes. There was little difference between those who were retired and those who were employed. At the same time, those with no health insurance were nearly twice as likely as their counterparts with health insurance to have experienced past year SPD.

Among those studied adults with past year SPD, 53.7 percent received mental health treatment in the past year and 6.2 percent did not receive treatment – even though they felt they needed it. Another 40.1 percent did not receive treatment and did not perceive a need for it.

There was not a significant difference between males and females in the rates of receiving mental health treatment in the past year and having an unmet need for treatment. In adults with less than a high school education, they were less likely than those with a higher education to have received help in the past year.

Individuals included in this study – adults over the age of 50 with a past year SPD – who had less than a high school education tended to be more likely than those with higher levels of education to have an unmet, unperceived treatment need. Retired persons aged 50 or older were more likely than their employed counterparts to have an unmet, unperceived treatment need.

In the studied age group, 8.8 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 experienced past year SPD compared with 4.5 percent of adults 65 or older. Females were more likely than males to have had past year SPD in both age groups and the rate of past year SPD generally decreased as income increased. For those aged 65 and older, the rate generally decreased as the level of education increased.

Overall, education, income, gender and age range played a part in the likelihood of an individual experiencing a past year SPD.
 

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