Older adults face gaps in mental health care

A foundation says primary care providers should provide and coordinate the care. (AP Photo/David Duprey) A foundation says primary care providers should provide and coordinate the care. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Older Americans' primary care doctors are skimping on mental health care services, and that might increase the risk that the seniors will suffer serious general health problems as a result of untreated mental illness.

Analysts at the John A. Hartford Foundation gave that assessment earlier this month when they released the results from a mental health survey of about 1,300 U.S. adults ages 65 and over.

About 5 percent to 8 percent of the people a survey team polled said they suffered from conditions such as nervousness, uncontrollable worrying or depression "nearly every day" or "more than half the days" in the past two weeks.

About 61 percent of the participants said they would prefer to get mental health care from counselors in their primare care doctors' offices, but only 25 percent said their primary care doctors had even asked them whether they were feeling sad, anxious or depressed in the past 12 months.

The analysts noted that other researchers have found that depression can double the risk that an individual will have heart disease and also double the risk that an individual will have dementia.

But only 34 percent reported knowing about the link between depression and heart disease risk, and only 21 percent knew about the link between depression and dementia, the analysts said.

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