While some mental health issues are related to the aging process, as many as one in five older Iowans experience mental health concerns that are not a normal part of aging – the most common of which are anxiety or mood disorders, including depression. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Older Adults Behavioral Health Profile for Region 7, which includes Iowa:
The suicide rate among Iowans aged 50 or older is higher than that of other age groups.
Older Iowans are entering substance use disorder treatment programs at a rate higher than the national average (nearly half have a co-occurring mental disorder)
Among Iowans over age 65, 10.2 percent say they rarely or never get social or emotional support.
Pursuant to Title III, Part D, and Title IV of the Older Americans Act, the Iowa Department on Aging collaborates with a variety of agencies and organizations to expand the public's knowledge and understanding of mental health and the aging process; to design, test and promote the use of innovative ideas and best practices in mental health programs and services for older Iowans; and to help provide mental health training to personnel within the field of aging.
In addition, the Department works to address the unique needs of older Iowans with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, as those illnesses are most prevalent among individuals over age 65.
Components of the Mental Health Program
Behavioral Health Services
Behavioral health is a state of mental and emotional well-being and/or choices and actions that affect wellness. Behavioral health problems – such as depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts – are not a normal part of aging, yet these issues impact many older Iowans. To address the behavioral health needs of older Iowans, the Department participates on a variety of collaborative teams, including:
Pursuant to Iowa Code §231.62, the Department works with the Area Agencies on Aging to use outreach efforts to identify older individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders and establish supportive services for those individuals and their families. The Department also regularly reviews trends and initiatives to address the long-term living needs of Iowans to determine how the needs of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders can be appropriately met.
Benefits to Older Iowans
Studies have shown that older Americans who experience frequent mental distress are:
More than twice as likely to report having a stroke than those with some or no mental distress;
More than 1.6 times as likely to experience coronary disease/heart attack;
More than 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes; and
Nearly 1.2 times as likely to have high blood pressure.
This relationship between mental health and physical health illustrates the need to address mental health among Iowa's aging population in an effort to increase longevity and improve quality of life.