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J Br Menopause Soc. 2004 Jun;10(2):49-53, 64.

Mental health and the ageing population.

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Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Box 311, Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge CB1 5EF, UK.


The ageing population of the world presents major challenges for society and for health services. Mental health issues are extremely important, as mental disorders, notably dementia and depression, are common in old age. Mental ill health can profoundly affect the quality of people's old age and has a significant impact upon the use of health and social services. In this paper, we examine these problems from the point of view of older people as consumers, and discuss the role of health promotion, primary care, social services and specialist mental health services for older people. Certain groups within the population, including women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, very old people, people with learning disabilities, and gay and lesbian older people face some particular issues, which are briefly discussed. Although this paper takes a mainly UK perspective, the mental health of older people is a huge global public health issue. Good epidemiology is central to understanding the needs of ageing populations and responding to them appropriately. Further research is needed in other areas, especially as to which service interventions are effective and efficient.

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