• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Mental Illness Is Not a Normal Part of Aging
October 24, 2023

Good mental health is crucial for a high quality of life, but there are still challenges in accessing support and treatment for mental illness. Mental illness is common, with one in five Americans experiencing it at some point in their lives. For older adults, the figure rises to one in four, and with a large aging population in the U.S., the number of older adults with mental health conditions is expected to double by 2030. Despite its prevalence, mental illness is often underdiagnosed and undertreated in older adults, with two-thirds not receiving the care they need.

Mental Illness Is Not a Normal Part of Aging

Depression or severe anxiety are not normal occurrences during the aging process. In fact, they are indications of a medical condition that can be treated.

Negative stereotypes about aging, social stigmas around mental health, and practical barriers like living in rural areas or lack of transportation can all contribute to a lack of support for older adults. Risk factors for mental health issues in older adults include loss of a loved one, loneliness or social isolation, chronic illness or disability, retirement, certain medications, alcohol use or abuse, and stress related to caregiving.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions affecting older adults, with 3-14% of older adults meeting criteria for an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety in older adults include excessive nervousness or fear, compulsive safety checks, avoidance of social situations and routine activities, and physical signs like headaches or gastrointestinal problems. Common types of anxiety disorders are panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Depression, defined by feelings of intense sadness or despair, affects over two million Americans aged 65 and older, with many experiencing anxiety as well. Symptoms of depression include loss of pleasure in daily activities, poor sleep, weight loss or gain, low energy, and difficulty focusing. Depression can limit a person's quality of life, physical recovery after illness, and increase their risk for suicidal thoughts and actions. Like anxiety, depression can be treated with medication and psychotherapy.

mental health disorders in older adults.

Bereavement, chronic illness, and caregiving pressures can all contribute to mental health disorders in older adults.

Risk factors for mental health problems in older adults:

  1. Loss of a loved one
  2. Loneliness and/or social isolation
  3. Chronic illness or disability
  4. Changes brought on by retirement
  5. Certain medications
  6. Alcohol use or abuse
  7. Stress of caregiving

Most common mental health problems for older adults:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Anxiety Symptoms:

  • Feelings of excessive nervousness or fear
  • Compulsive, repeated safety checks
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Avoiding routine activities
  • Physical signs like shallow breathing, sweating, trembling, chest pains, headaches, gastrointestinal problems

Common Anxiety Disorders:

  1. Panic disorder
    • Characterized by panic attacks or sudden feelings of terror that strike repeatedly
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Suffering from repetitive, unwanted thoughts or rituals
  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Nightmares, depression, and other persistent symptoms after a traumatic event
  4. Phobias
    • Extreme fear of something that poses little real danger
  5. Generalized anxiety disorder
    • Chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday activities

Affordable mental health care with Medicare:

Accessing affordable mental health care should not be hindered by concerns about health insurance costs, especially for older adults. Medicare offers coverage for a diverse range of mental health services, including screenings for mental illness, lab tests recommended by doctors, and visits with healthcare professionals such as doctors, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, or clinical social workers. Part D coverage is available to help with the cost of medications needed to treat mental health conditions. For more information about mental health coverage under Medicare, it is advised to contact your plan provider.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, seeking care early is crucial. Online screenings and mental health services through Medicare help older adults access affordable care. If in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by dialing or texting 988.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Mental Illness. Found on the internet at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
  2. Pan American Health Organization. Seniors and Mental Health. Found on the internet at: https://www3.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9877:seniors-mental-health&Itemid=0&lang=en#gsc.tab=0
  3. Mental Health America. Anxiety in Older Adults. Found on the internet at https://www.mhanational.org/anxiety-older-adults
  4. Mental Health America. Depression in Older Adults: More Facts. Found on the internet at https://www.mhanational.org/anxiety-older-adults
  5. National Council on Aging, Mental Illness is Not a Normal Part of Aging. found on the internet at https://www.ncoa.org/article/mental-illness-is-not-a-normal-part-of-aging

Get Help

Compare Medicare coverage options with the help of one of our agents:

Talk to us: (833) 265-9655 

Medicare brokers such as Lehigh Partners get paid by the insurance companies they represent. And you pay exactly the same rate for your insurance if you use a Medicare consultant (broker). There is no extra fee or cost for enrolling through a broker. You will never pay a fee for our help.

Find a Plan

Shop for coverage online. Safe, Secure, & Confidential

Call us

Call Lehigh Partners at 1-833-265-9655

Licensed insurance agents are available to help you through enrollment and beyond.

Need Help?

Get in touch with a licensed sales agent now by filling out the form - no obligations!

Medicare Checklist

Get Our FREE Medicare Checklist.

Download our complimentary Medicare checklist and conveniently access all the necessary information in one place, ensuring you never miss a crucial number, deadline, or date again.


Health and Wellness

Cruise into Unforgettable Memories: Senior-Friendly Adventures Await!Cruises offer a fantastic vacation option for seniors seeking relaxation,

Health and Wellness

Traveling during the holiday season can be one of the most stressful experiences. However, you can

General Medicare information, Health and Wellness, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, Part D RX Plans

Are you searching for the best Medicare insurance agency in Bethlehem? With a plethora of options

Health and Wellness

Life insurance for seniors differs based on their age and financial situation.For seniors over 60, the

Health and Wellness

Good mental health is crucial for a high quality of life, but there are still challenges

Health and Wellness

Policies that protect your family and give you peace of mindSometimes being prepared for tomorrow helps

General Medicare information, Health and Wellness, Medicare Supplement

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for those who meet eligibility requirements. The program comprises

Ready to talk to an agent about your Medicare coverage?