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Going on Regular Trips Lessens the Risk of Depression in Elderly - Study Shows

Due to the mind and body that are changing as people gets older, they become more prone in developing mental health problems like depression. / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123rf

 

The elderly are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They become weaker and more difficult to handle as years pass by. As we get older, we become more at risk of developing physical and mental health issues because both our mind and body are changing. Seniors are more likely to develop neurological disorders or mental disorders as well as other health conditions such as hearing loss, diabetes, and osteoarthritis. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 6.6% of all disability among people who are ages 60 and above can be attributed to mental and neurological disorders. 

Recognizing Depression in Elderly

As people grow older, they sometimes lose interest in the activities they used to enjoy, struggle with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and find getting through the day a lot more difficult. These are signs of depression. This kind of mental health condition can affect any of us regardless of age, background, or race. It can affect every aspect of our lives such as sleep, interest in work, appetite, hobbies, and even relationships.

Unfortunately, older people often fail to recognize and address these symptoms of depression for several reasons. They might think that the loneliness they are experiencing is just a part of aging and it's nothing to worry about. They also often think that physical complaints are not signs of depression, and are hesitant to talk about their feelings or ask for help. 

According to WebMD, it is important to ensure that older people who display symptoms of depression are evaluated and treated because this mental health condition can increase the risk of cardiac diseases and, worse, death. Previous studies have revealed that the presence of depression is associated with an increased risk of death. 

Symptoms of depression in older adults include sadness or feelings of despair, unexplained or aggravated aches and pains, sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness), slowed movement or speech, neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene), memory problems, and suicidal tendencies. 

Moreover, elderly white men who are depressed are more likely to commit suicide, which is why the National Institute of Mental Health considers this mental health condition to be a major public health problem to people ages 65 and above. Some of the factors that might affect the elderly are the loss of social support systems caused by retirement, the death of a spouse or siblings, or relocation of residence. 

Depression is Not a Normal Part of Aging

Contrary to public belief, aging doesn't necessarily signal the start of depression. In fact, previous studies have revealed that most seniors are satisfied with their lives, even though they are experiencing physical problems or other illnesses. In an article by U.S. News, the National Institute of Senior Health stated that, although some of the elderly might suffer because of major changes in their lives, they can still regain their emotional balance. 

According to the clinical director of the division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry and director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Day Hospital, Dr. Susan W. Lehmann, “Depression is never considered a normal part of aging. While the more of life we live, the more likely we are to experience times of sadness and grief related to lose or change, most people handle these life challenges without developing a persistent depressive disorder.”

Doing Regular Trips

Overcoming depression, in general, is always a tough ride. It involves learning to adapt to change, finding new things to enjoy, staying physically and socially active, and being connected with your family and loved ones. However, some people think that older adults with depression are more difficult to handle because they can't learn new things, make fresh lifestyle changes, or try new activities. The truth is, they can.

In a recent study conducted by the researchers of the University College London, the researchers found that going on regular trips to the theater, cinema, or museum can have the potential to reduce the risk of depression in older adults. They also revealed that a clear link exists between the frequency of 'cultural engagement' and the chances of people aged 50 and above developing depression. 

 

Activities like going out to the cinema is one of the ways to prevent the risk of depression in seniors. / Photo by: Cathy Yeulet via 123rf

 

According to Science Daily, the study shows that cultural activities will help people manage, cope with, and even prevent depression. The researchers found that there is 32% lower risk of developing this kind of mental health issue in seniors who attend films, plays, or exhibitions every once in a while.

Dr. Daisy Fancourt, the lead author of the study, aims to encourage people to be aware of the benefits that cultural activities offer. In this way, they can take better control of their own mental health. "Generally speaking, people know the benefits of eating their five-a-day and of exercise for their physical and mental health, but there is very little awareness that cultural activities also have similar benefits. People engage with culture for the pure enjoyment of doing so, but we need to be raising awareness of their wider benefits too," she added. 

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