Older women and mental health


Women, at older ages, are no less likely to experience mental health problems than at other times in their lives. In fact, for common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, the prevalence amongst older women people may often be higher than among younger women (because of key risk factors which we set out below), and this is higher still for women living in residential care homes. 

As illustrated by Enid, one of our service users, the mental health needs of older people can be severe, and help hard to find: “I feel like there’s no point in living any more. I have done everything I wanted to do and there’s nothing else for me to do. I went out to work and had a family. Now I just live out the days and that’s depressing. I get up in the morning and there’s another long day to get through. I have lost my husband. My children visit me and this doesn’t take the feelings away. When they have gone, life seems even emptier.”

Amanda Thompsell, from the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s Old Age Faculty says:

“…time and time again I see how older women fail to get the help they need because they don’t know what help is out there, or aren’t referred to the services that are available.

This is a tragedy when there is evidence that older women respond well to therapies and medical treatments. The Governments’ Women’s Mental Health Taskforce report provides a very recent example of the lack of recognition of the care needs of older women.

This report made many recommendations around women’s mental health needs but barely mentioned older women. This was such a wasted opportunity.  We need to be working much harder as a society to ensure that older women are not forgotten, and that they get appropriate advice and support for their mental health needs.”

You can read more from Dr. Thompsell in our Ageism Plus series here