In a trend that is occurring nationwide, more people age 80 years and older are seeking psychological counseling for the first time in their lives than have ever done so in the past, reported the New York Times . These actions may represent positive news, considering that until 2004, people age 65 and older had the highest rate of suicide among all age groups, according to data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Interestingly, the rate of suicide among those in the baby boomer generation has risen steadily since 1999 and surpassed the suicide rate of those 65 years and older in 2006.
Adults 80 Years and Older Seeking Therapy for First Time
Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, Ph.D. , professor of research at Stanford University in the department of psychiatry, explained that over the past five years, mental health professionals are seeing more people who are age 80 years and over than had been the norm previous to that. For many of these older adults, it is the first time they've tried therapy, usually having made use of the more traditional routes for their age group such as their church or talking with family members.
Gallagher-Thompson attributed the new trend to extended life expectancy and a realization that there is no need to spend the remainder of their lives unhappy.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans age 65 years and older are affected by depression, a condition that can begin even in late life and is often mistaken for patterns of normal aging.
Mental Health Professionals Seek Answers to Rise in Baby Boomer Suicide Rates
The suicide rate among those of middle age has held relatively steady for 50 to 60 years, until recent data demonstrated the steadily rising rate of suicide in this age group, generally represented by baby boomers, beginning in 1999, explained Julie Phillips, Ph.D. , Rutgers University. The suicide rate for middle-aged adults rose 30 percent over a period of 10 years in 2010.
This age group has historically been believed to be relatively protected from suicide, a life period representing stability and emotional contentment.
For now, mental health professionals have theories about the rising suicide rate in baby boomers, but actual answers are yet to be known. Paula Clayton, M.D. , medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention , explained to The Sacramento Bee that the increase is likely to be partially attributable to the economy and unemployment.
But Phillips research has shown that the suicide rate for baby boomers began to increase even before the American economy turned rocky and suggests other factors are involved, such as a generation who is more sedentary and heavier than previous generations of the same age, with more chronic illnesses and conditions than their predecessors.
Other risk factors known to increase the likelihood of suicide include being male, alcohol or drug misuse, and being a veteran. Still, Phillips noted that for some people with suicidal thoughts and actions, there are no risk factors identified.
One factor -- insurance coverage or lack thereof -- was mentioned for both adults age 80 years and older and baby boomers. The older adults can now take advantage of Medicare coverage for therapy, while baby boomers struggle with being uninsured or underinsured. Might the upcoming coverage changes in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act positively affect middle-age suicide rates?
- Mental Health
- baby boomer generation