A recent survey conducted by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has revealed that 30 per cent of the 103 million people above the age of 60 in India are suffering from some form or degree of depression. The first chapter of the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI) report has estimated that 8.3 per cent of the country’s elderly population have probable major depression. This means, one in every 12 elderly people in the country has depression.
As against this, the self-reported cases of depression in this age group is only about 0.8 per cent. This is ten times less than the number estimated in the survey. The report therefore has highlighted that the number of undiagnosed, but prevalent cases of depression is much higher.
Among the people between the ages of 45 to 59, 26 per cent show symptoms of depression.
The report has also noted that the depression was prevalent in more elderly women as compared to men in a similar age bracket. This figure is also higher in rural areas, where about 9 per cent of elderly people are likely to have depression than the urban areas where the number is at 6 per cent.
The role of education has also been significant in the mental health of an individual. This was indicated in the report as fewer people above the age of 60 who have 10 or more years of schooling (5 per cent) had depression than those with less than primary education (9 per cent).
The survey was conducted between 2017-18. The numbers are most likely to have hiked up in the last year because of COVID-19 and ensuing lockdowns, considering the restrictions placed in their movement which not only forced them to stay in isolation but also cut off their social life.
Addressing The Mental Health Issues Among Elderly
The mental health of the elderly population in the country is worrisome. Measures need to be taken to address these issues. NGOs play a significant role in addressing some of these issues by conducting volunteering activities where young volunteers spend time with the elderly in old-age homes to spread joy. However, as the volunteers of an NGO are not tied to it for a long term, the elderly do not get a chance to form bonds or relationships with them, as they are not repeat visitors very often.
CSR and employee volunteering can play a significant role in addressing these issues. The employee volunteers who are associated with the companies for a longer period of time can form long-term relationships with the elderly in the old age homes. The corporates can also help in providing the old age facilities with entertainment infrastructure and mental health professional that can address some of the issues.
Through a collaborative effort, we can help the elderly of the country lead a peaceful and happy life.