Healthy Living: Mental and Emotional Health for Seniors

Healthy Living: Mental and Emotional Health for Seniors


A recent study revealed that the elderly are on the cusp of recovery after the pandemic affected their mental and emotional health.

The experience of the pandemic has had a negative emotional impact on most of us. This study shows where older adults are emotionally at the moment and how they manage their emotional and mental health. This study also shows that despite challenges to emotional and mental well-being, most older adults report that they are resilient and expect to be able to recover from these challenges. However, a deep dive suggests that some older adults may benefit from help managing their emotional and mental health.

While most seniors say their emotional and mental health is very good, many say they are troubled by anxiety and depression.

When asked about mental health, two-thirds of people over 50 said their emotional health (64%) and mental health (66%) was excellent or very good. However, when asked about specific measures of emotional health, we found two weeks before the study:

  • 45% were bothered by anxiety.
  • 34% said they had no interest or pleasure in doing things.
  • 31% have feelings of depression or hopelessness.
  • 52% find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

In addition to COVID, the growing anxiety among over 50s can be attributed to personal challenges, domestic politics, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Most adults (61%) older than 50 say they have experienced some level of anxiety in the past year. Experiences related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as the primary culprit associated with the level of anxiety experienced by those over 50 years of age. Three in ten (31%) say that suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their level of anxiety.

While seniors have faced emotional challenges over the past few years, they are resilient and feel they have what it takes to recover and thrive.

Even with high levels of stress and anxiety, seniors over 50 say they are resilient. When asked to rate their level of resilience from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), the average rating was between 7 and 8. In fact,

  • 58% rated their level of resilience as high (8, 9 or 10 out of 10).
  • 77% say their level of resilience has not changed since the start of the pandemic.
  • 13% say their level of resilience has actually increased in the past two years.

However, when asked about specific measures of resilience, a significant number of older adults struggle with adaptation and rebound when things don’t go as planned and/or during hardship. For example, nearly four out of ten don’t bounce back quickly after tough times. Also, significantly fewer seniors between the ages of 50 and 59 say they tend to bounce back quickly (56% for those ages 50 to 59 versus 64% for those over 60).

While it is understandable to see a deterioration in mental health or emotional well-being during stressful times, this is not a normal part of aging. To combat potential reluctance on the part of older adults to seek help in managing their emotional health, it is important that access to mental health treatment be easy, smooth, and natural. Ensuring that mental health and emotional well-being is addressed during all medical visits is an invaluable step toward ensuring that older adults receive comprehensive care.

methodology

This national survey was conducted using NORC in the University of Chicago AmeriSpeak 50+ Omnibus probability-based sample. AmeriSpeak is designed to be representative of the American family population. All data are weighted by age, gender, and ethnicity according to the latest census statistics.

A total sample of 1,644 adults over 50 years of age with cross-cultural samples of African Americans/Blacks (441), Hispanics/Latinos (405) and LGBTQ (n=228) were surveyed online and by phone between February 24 and 1 March, 2022. A portion of the multicultural samples came from the national survey sample. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish.

For more information, please contact Cheryl Lampkin at clampkin@aarp.org. For media inquiries, contact External Relations at media@aarp.org.

Suggested citation:

Lampkin, Cheryl. 2022 AARP Healthy Living Survey for Adults 50 Years and Older. Washington, DC: AARP Research, May 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00533.001

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