Sat, Jun 23, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Use of antidepressants among elderly population shows uptick: NHIA survey

By Lin Hui-chin, Lo Pi and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Older people from daycare centers in Tainan’s Siaying District make “zongzi” — glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves — together with volunteers on Thursday last week.

Photo: Yang Chin-cheng, Taipei Times

A National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) survey showed an uptick in the number of older people using antidepressants, highlighting the issue of mental health among the elderly population.

The percentage of people aged 65 and above using antidepressants rose to 12.2 percent last year, up from 11.3 percent in 2011, the agency said.

The use of antidepressants appears to increase with age: 1.5 percent among Taiwanese aged 30 or younger; 3.9 percent for those aged 31 to 40; 5.7 percent for the 41-to-50 age group; and 7.6 percent for those aged 51 to 64, the survey showed.

More than 10 percent of the domestic elderly population has been diagnosed with depression, which is often due to the regression of physical functions, such as an increasing inability to chew and failing eyesight, Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry secretary-general Chang Chia-ming (張家銘) said.

Elderly people become insecure and lose confidence from not having a job and could become emotionally isolated as their children move out or friends and family die, he said.

The suicide rate for older people last year was 31.1 for every 100,000 people — nearly double the national average of 16.4 percent, he added.

China Medical University Hospital’s Department of Geriatric Medicine doctor Lin Chih-hsueh (林志學) advised family members to be more attentive to prevent such tragedies.

John Tung Foundation Psychiatric Health Center director Yeh Ya-hsin (葉雅馨) said that time is a crucial factor in determining whether changes in a person’s behavior are part of the aging process or depression, with the former progressing slowly over a period of months, while the latter progresses much faster, in a matter of weeks.

Natural aging symptoms include hypertension, osteoporosis, pain in the joints and a slower metabolism, the foundation said.

Older people with these conditions are likely to still be energetic, but might feel somewhat down and tire easily, it said.

Symptoms of depression include frequent complaints about various aches and pains, but with medical checkups turning out normal results, it said.

Older people who are constantly moody, disinterested, have difficulty sleeping and do not like leaving the house might also have depression, it said.

Studies conducted by the National Health Research Institute have shown that symptoms of anemia and folate deficiency could affect monoamine neurotransmitters and the supply of oxygen to the brain.

The studies suggest that a sufficient intake of nutrients is critical to preventing mental diseases.

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