Though continuing to make significant contributions to their families and communities, one in 20 Irish adults aged over 50 experienced a major depressive episode in the last year, a new report from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity has shown.
The report, which was published today, also showed that only 30 per cent of those who experienced depression are prescribed appropriate medical therapy for depression, noting that depression has a significant negative effect on the health and independence of older people in Ireland.
The report is the third major piece of research by TILDA, which investigates the health and well-being of those aged over 54 in Ireland and notes the changes that have occurred since TILDA first started collecting data in 2010.
The report findings show that 48 per cent of older adults who have children provide financial assistance to them, compared to only three per cent receiving financial help from them. It also found that half of those aged between 54 and 74 provide an average of 36 hours of child care a month for their grandchildren, and that during the last year 17 per cent volunteered in their communities at least once a week. The report associated supporting and volunteering for their families and communities with better mood and quality of life.
Another significant finding in the report was that since 2010, serious but treatable health conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure continue to be undiagnosed and untreated, with only three out of five reporting their symptoms of depression to a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional.
Prof Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA, spoke in the press release saying that it was “good news” that the over 50s “continue to make a tremendous contribution to our society”.
“In this report, TILDA has further identified important risk factors which, if modified or treated can make a big difference to positive health and well-being”, Kenny further noted.
With the increased obesity rates and poor diets of older adults, these conditions put adults at risk of cardiovascular disease and, more generally, a lower quality of life. The authors of the study believe that, while some screening programmes, such as those for cancer and influenza, are working, there are areas in need of new policy.
Data from the report outlined that 76 per cent of those surveyed did not meet their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, while 68 per cent eat too much food and drink that is high in fat, salt and sugar. The rate of obesity has increased since the first study, particularly for women between 50 and 64, as among this group there has been an eight per cent increase since 2010.
Other findings in the report showed that one in seven older adults experience urinary incontinence, with women three times more likely to experience it. Older men are more likely to suffer hearing loss, with about half the population aged over 75 suffering hearing loss.
The report said that efforts need to be made to challenge the notion that urinary incontinence is a fact of getting older and that we need educate people and highlight the risk factors for urinary incontinence such as smoking and obesity.
Despite this, the report found that only 21 per cent of this group who are hard of hearing use hearing aids, even though there is financial aid available for those who need them. They commented that those with hearing loss engaged less socially, experiencing symptoms of loneliness and depression.
The report recommended that a new approach to raising awareness about depression is needed among older adults and their families, in order to reduce the stigma around mental health. The report also recommends that screening for hearing loss should be done at an earlier stage and the the use of hearing aids should be promoted.
Another significant finding of the report was the fact that there has been a 10 per cent increase in those over 80 presenting at emergency departments since 2010. For this group of patients, the lengths of their stay in hospital has also significantly increased over the same period. The report notes that this has a knock-on effect on hospitals and communities.
Speaking in the press release, Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said that she was looking “forward to working with TILDA to ensure that policy making is more and more based on good research and hard evidence”.
“As a longitudinal study with a health assessment, TILDA is a critical source of evidence to better understand ageing in Ireland over a sustained period of time and across a number of domains”, Kennedy continued.
TILDA, which was established in 2006, is a large study examining the social, economic, and health circumstances of over 8,000 community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and older, living in the Republic of Ireland. The TILDA study is also connected to 13 other similar international longitudinal studies on ageing, which allows cross country comparisons of health, wealth and happiness among older adults.
Initially receiving €29 million from the Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life, TILDA recently received another €10 million from the Department of Health and a further €5 million from The Atlantic Philanthropies, to continue it’s research for another five years, with continued support from Irish Life.