Mental health is a significant public concern worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in every 8 people are affected by a mental or neurological disorder. Depression is the leading cause of disability globally, followed by anxiety disorders. At the same time, the burden of mental illness costs the global economy billions of dollars annually. On top of that, there is a significant lack of access to mental health services in many countries, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
Not only that, poor mental health can significantly impact physical health and accelerate the aging process in older adults. In this context, the awareness of mental health in aging is growing as the population of older adults increases. For example, studies have shown that depression and anxiety can lead to cellular damage and accelerate aging. Therefore, people must understand the connection between aging and mental health and take a holistic approach to good mental well-being during aging.
This article discusses the importance of mental health, how it affects the pace of aging, and how people can stay mentally healthy during aging.
Embrace Your Emotions – Explore the Connection Between Aging and Mental Health
Accelerated Aging: How Time Does Not Indicate Health
Healthcare professionals often rely on chronological age to determine a person’s health status. This way of assessment means that people of the same age are assumed to have similar health risks and outcomes. However, this approach has limitations, as chronological age is not the most accurate determiner of health. Therefore, two individuals of the same chronological age can have vastly different levels of health and wellness.
In this context, biological age, or aging at the cellular level, is a more accurate indicator of health. It refers to the gradual decline in the functioning of cells, tissues, and organs over time. Various factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures, influence this decline. By measuring biological aging, healthcare professionals can accurately assess a person’s health risks and make better recommendations.
For example, telomere attrition refers to the gradual shortening of telomeres, the protective DNA sequences found at the ends of chromosomes. This shortening is a hallmark of aging and has been linked to various age-related diseases. By measuring telomere length, doctors can gain insight into a patient’s biological age and assess their risk for age-related health problems. Also, healthcare providers can make more informed decisions about preventive measures and medical interventions, such as lifestyle changes and targeted therapies, to help delay the effects of aging and improve patient outcomes.
Aging and Mental Health: An Intricate Connection
How Do They Affect Each Other?
The connection between mental health and aging is complex and multifaceted. As people age, they often face various life challenges, such as retirement, losing loved ones, and declining physical health, affecting their mental well-being. Additionally, age-related changes in the brain, such as a decrease in neurotransmitter production, can also contribute to developing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Meanwhile, poor mental health can also harm the aging process. For example, depression has been linked to accelerated aging and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Moreover, dementia and other cognitive impairments can severely impact an individual’s quality of life and ability to live independently. By addressing mental health, we can help older adults maintain their well-being and improve their quality of life.
Research on Aging and Mental Health
According to a study on psychological factors and biological aging, those who feel unhappy or lonely during their aging process are 1.65 years older than those having a good mental health condition at the same chronological age.
Specifically, the study’s authors developed an assessment tool called “deep learning aging clock,” which detects accelerated aging in people with heart, liver, and lung diseases. This aging clock uses a combination of 16 blood biomarkers and 7 biometric parameters to identify conditions that are interpreted as accelerated aging in the participants. Scientists also investigated whether people with age-related diseases were biologically older than healthy people based on their history of cancer, heart, liver, and lung disease.
The study found that the following three variables had the most influence on the aging rate: smoking (+1.25 years), being currently married (-0.59 years), and having sleep problems (+0.44 years). But if psychological factors, including depression, fear, and loneliness, are also considered, the aging rate can be ramped up by +1.65 years. This seemingly modest age acceleration can result in a considerable rise in mortality risk.
How Does Poor Mental Health Accelerate Aging?
Weaken the Immune System
Poor mental health can have a significant impact on the immune system. Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can disrupt the functioning of the immune system by altering the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate the immune response, such as dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol. This phenomenon can lead to inflammation and decreased immunity, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
This link between poor mental health and a weakened immune system can exacerbate aging. For example, chronic inflammation and decreased immunity can accelerate the aging of cells and tissues, increasing the risk of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline. In a study on mental health and immunity, the immune response is closely tied to thoughts, emotional patterns, and psychological dynamics. Meanwhile, psychological therapies can lower mental health-induced inflammation and improve system performance.
Lead to an Unhealthy Lifestyle
Poor mental health can also directly impact an individual’s lifestyle choices, leading to unhealthy habits such as lack of sleep, substance abuse, and a sedentary lifestyle. For example, individuals with depression or anxiety may struggle with insomnia or oversleeping, disrupting their circadian rhythm and negatively impacting their overall health. In addition, substance abuse, such as alcohol or drug use, and a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of chronic diseases and contribute to a decline in physical function.
These unhealthy lifestyle choices can have a cumulative effect on the aging process, accelerating the decline of physical and cognitive function. For example, chronic sleep deprivation, substance abuse, and a sedentary lifestyle have all been linked to an increased risk of age-related diseases and a shorter lifespan. In a study on sleep and biological aging, sleep disturbances cause an earlier onset of diseases and shorten survival. Also, sleep alters the aging process by causing disruptions in metabolism, failing repair and restoration mechanisms, cell damage, telomere loss, and ultimately system failure.
Mental Health Challenges: Not a Typical Aspect of Aging
Older adults often face mental health problems that can significantly impact their quality of life. Some common mental health problems include depression, anxiety, and dementia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 5.7% of people over 60 experience depression, which is expected to increase as the global population ages. Meanwhile, rates of anxiety and dementia also tend to increase with age.
Despite these challenges, remember that aging is not always associated with poor mental health. The truth is that many older adults can live active and mentally healthy lives. This privilege is due to a combination of factors such as a support system, social connections, and engaging in physical and mental activities. In other words, with the proper support and resources, older adults can continue to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.
Maintaining Good Mental Health During Aging
Build Social Connections
Building social connections is essential to maintaining good mental health, especially for older adults. Participating in mental health-supporting organizations provides a sense of community and inclusion for older adults, which helps reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. In addition, by connecting with others who share similar experiences, older adults can feel understood and supported, leading to improved mental well-being.
Many organizations cater to the mental health needs of older adults, including the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Mind Your Mind, and Anxiety Canada. These foundations offer a range of resources, support groups, and educational programs for older adults struggling with mental health issues. They also provide opportunities for older adults to connect with others and build social connections through events and activities.
Take Mental Health Supplements
DHH-B is a supplement that supports brain function and mental clarity by providing essential nutrients for optimal brain health. Fasting-Pro is a unique formula that promotes autophagy, the process by which the body eliminates damaged cells, which is crucial for mental and physical health. Finally, Senolytic Complex is a powerful antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress, a risk factor for inflammation, aging, and mental health problems.
Combined, these three supplements offer a comprehensive approach to mental and physical health designed to support optimal brain function and help you maintain good mental health as you age. So whether you are looking to boost your cognitive function, enhance your mental clarity, or maintain good mental health, these supplements are the ideal way to ensure that your mind and body are working at their best.
Learn more about:
Vasile, C. (2020). Mental Health and Immunity. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine.
Carroll, J. and Prather, A. (2021). Sleep and Biological Aging: a Short Review. Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research.
Galkin, F. et al. (2022). Psychological Factors Substantially Contribute to Biological Aging: Evidence From the Aging Rate in Chinese Older Adults. Journal Impact Factor for Aging-US.
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