Anxiety, Severe Cognitive Impairment & Depression

Anxiety, Severe Cognitive Impairment & Depression

Mental Well- Being – Aging & Mental Disorders (Anxiety, Severe Cognitive Impairment, Depression)

Mental Well-Being - Aging & Mental Disorders (Anxiety)


Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health problems among older adults. About 11.4 percent of adults aged 55 years and older meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder in one year.  Phobic anxiety disorders are among the most common in late life as opposed to panic disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders.1

Late-life anxiety is not well understood, but is believed to be as common in older adults as in younger age groups (although how and when it appears is distinctly different in older adults). Anxiety in this age group may be underestimated because older adults are less likely to report psychiatric symptoms and more likely to emphasize physical complaints.

Mental Well- Being – Severe Cognitive Impairment (Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease)

Severe Cognitive Impairment (Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease)

Severe cognitive impairment (dementia) is the loss of mental functions– such as thinking, memory, and reasoning – that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning.  Dementia is not a disease itself, but rather a group of symptoms that might accompany certain diseases or conditions.  Dementia is irreversible when caused by disease or injury, but might be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, hormone or vitamin imbalances, or depression.

The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment estimates that as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S. have dementia. The most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease.  Over 50 percent of people diagnosed with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.   Scientists think that up to 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, with perhaps half of these in the early stages.5

Individuals with early-stage Alzheimer's are likely to retain the ability to fulfill many daily activities as well as participate in dialogue.  The many abilities of people with early-stage Alzheimer’s offer a rich opportunity for them to determine their current and future experiences.

Approximately 19 million Americans have a family member with Alzheimer’s; approximately 300,000 new cases each year are diagnosed.  These numbers will increase as baby boomers age – and, Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by the middle of this century over 14 million people will suffer from Alzheimer's Disease or a related disorder.1

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, please click here [link to section on Alzheimer’s Disease).


Mental Well- Being – Depression


Depression, a type of mood disorder, is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults.  It is associated with distress and suffering.  It also can lead to impairments in physical, mental, and social functioning.

The presence of depressive disorders often adversely affects the course and complicates the treatment of other chronic diseases.  Older adults with depression visit the doctor and emergency room more often, use more medication, incur higher outpatient charges, and stay longer in the hospital.1  

Although the rate of older adults with depressive symptoms tends to increase with age, depression is not a normal part of growing older.  Rather, in 80% of cases it is a treatable condition.1 Unfortunately, depressive disorders are a widely under-recognized condition and often are untreated or undertreated among older adults.1

Depression is one of the most successfully treated illnesses.  There are highly effective treatments for depression in late life, and most depressed older adults can improve dramatically from treatment.1

Specific Sources:

Older Adults & Mental Health,

5  “How to Fill Leisure Time Intelligently and Some Powerful Reasons You Should,” September 12th, 20

General Sources:

1. “Early-Stage Alzheimer’s: Meeting the Needs of an Expanding Constituency,” by Peter Read, Mental Health and Aging Network, MHAN, an ASA Constituent group, from the Spring 2008 issue of Dimensions

2. Aging and Mental Health, Caregiving,

3. “The State of Mental Health and Aging in America Issue Brief 1: What Do the Data Tell Us?” Atlanta, GA: National Association of Chronic Disease Directors; 2008,

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors.

4. “Planning Ahead,”