Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Seniors Are Also Depression-prone

I’m not really surprised that Singaporeans are depression-prone. 

But what is worrying is the fact that depression among seniors is on the rise in the city-state. 

One in five senior persons in Singapore aged 75 and above show signs of depression, according to the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study in 2012 by the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. 

And with it, we also see the rise in suicides. 

Older adults aged 50 and above are a worry for suicide risk in Singapore, the Samaritans of Singapore had said in a July 31, 2017 news release. 

This age-group accounted for 46 percent of suicides in 2016, with 197 deaths – a 19 percent increase from 166 in 2015. 

(For 2016, the total number of reported suicides in Singapore was 429 cases, an increase of 20 from a year earlier). 

In 2014, 126 seniors aged 60 and above committed suicide – that was an alarming increase of almost 60 percent from 79 cases in 2000.

The warning signs of suicide in the depressed elderly include unrelenting low mood; anxiety and psychic pain; loss of interest; and sleep problems, among others. 

For the past five years, around 30 to 33 percent of calls received on the SOS 24-hour hotline were from callers in the 50-and-above age group, SOS said. 

Stressors cited by these callers include employment issues, financial worries, family relationships, mental health, physical and psychological impairment and chronic health problems. 

Males in their fifties are especially vulnerable, as they "experience significant life changes" and transitions, such as retrenchment, financial issues and retirement. Unlike females who tend to be more receptive in seeking help, males are more likely to shun this behaviour, said SOS. 

Struggles both genders face in the later years include the loss of family and friends, debilitating physical health problems and a loss of independence. 

As a result of feeling overwhelmed by such life situations, many experience "a sort of tunnel vision and believing suicide is the only way out", according to SOS. 

From the identified stressors, financial worries should be the least of their problems because Singapore’s elderly poor can qualify for State assistance to meet their material needs – from heavy medical subsidies and food vouchers, to long-term financial assistance, and even rental waivers for those on ‘Public Assistance’. 

The biggie problem for many of them – especially those who are unable to work and homebound due to disability, failing health or mental illness – is social isolation. 

The situation can only get worse. The NUS’ Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study in 2004 found that seniors living alone were twice as likely as their peers to develop depressive symptoms. 

And their numbers are rising. The Department of Statistics estimates that 83,000 elderly persons will be living alone by 2030, compared with the 47,000 seniors aged 65 and above in 2016. 

Because of the stigma against mental illness especially, many of the elderly folks in Singapore are “forgotten by society” with people going out of the way to avoid them. 

And let’s not forget the other age groups. Suicides among those aged 20 to 29 are a real concern too, highlighted SOS. 

In 2016, seventy-seven young adults took their own lives. This works out to more than six deaths per month, the highest number of deaths among all other age groups. 

Stressors cited include studies or work, unemployment, financial worries, family life, struggles with social interactions and feelings of loneliness. 

Life is tough, more so in a pressure cooker environment like Singapore – therefore, all the more reason for Singaporeans to learn to be depression survivors.

BTW, I'm sure Malaysian seniors are depression-prone too.

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