Mount Sinai Researchers Find Mental Health Care Underused by Older Adults

New York, NY

 – Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and School of Nursing have found that adults over 65 significantly underuse mental health care, and identified a wide range of possible causes for this underuse. The findings offer health care providers a better understanding of why many older adults avoid mental health care. The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers analyzed data from 1,681 adults aged 65 and over and found that two-thirds of the respondents with a clinical need for mental health care (a depression or anxiety diagnosis within the previous year) did not receive treatment. Specifically, 65.9 percent of those with major depressive disorder, and 72.5 percent of those with anxiety, did not receive mental health care. Even among individuals who felt a need for mental health care, 17 percent still did not receive it, and 20 percent delayed seeking treatment for at least four weeks.

Individuals were one to three and a half times more likely to seek mental health care services when they had a history of a greater number of chronic physical conditions, private insurance, more household members, and at least a high school education. Those who did not receive or put off receiving care cited a number of reasons, including beliefs that their mental health issues were less serious than they were, or would go away on their own. Other reasons cited included wanting to handle the problem themselves, not thinking treatment would be effective, and an inability to get an appointment with a health care provider due to issues with logistics or insurance.

“The patients’ perception of their mental health and their perceptions of treatment have a major impact on whether they actually seek treatment,” said lead author Melissa Garrido, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine [LINK:] at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “A lot of older adults feel they should keep symptoms of depression to themselves, or that depression is a normal part of aging. So understanding the motivation behind why older adults do or do not seek out mental health care is an important step toward increasing proper treatment.”

Data were used from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys, a public dataset collected between 2001 and 2003, the most recent data addressing mental health care usage patterns in older adults in the United States. Patient information, including medical history and sociodemographic characteristics, was self-reported.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital among the nation’s best hospitals based on reputation, patient safety, and other patient-care factors. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 530,000 outpatient visits took place.