Older Adults’ Attitudes on Mental Health Care

Respondents discussed COVID-19 conditions and mental health benefits.

A survey highlighted the perspectives of older adults on mental health care before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, conducted by eHealth, included responses from 3869 Medicare-eligible adults aged 65 and older, and aimed to identify the respondents’ thoughts on the importance of mental health care, whether they have received mental health services, and their feelings about their mental health in general. In relation to the pandemic, 39% of respondents reported an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation as a result of the ongoing pandemic conditions, and nearly 1 in 6 saying that they have lost at least 1 loved one to COVID-19.1 Although 34% of respondents said their feelings of anxiety and depression were related to worries about the pandemic, 38% cited financial stress and 35% cited politics/current events.1

The results also showed an increase in willingness to seek mental health care services, with 48% of respondents saying they are “very willing” to pursue mental health care today, in comparison to 35% prior to the pandemic and 29% 10 years ago. Also, 7% of respondents—including 9% of women—reported that they have received mental health care for the first time since the start of the pandemic.1

Beyond the pandemic, 72% of respondents said they believe mental health benefits are important factors to consider when choosing health insurance plans, and 64% said mental health benefits are equally important as other types of medical care. Further, 53% said they have received some type of mental health care in the past, with individual counseling/therapy and prescription medications being the most commonly cited services received at 36% and 33%, respectively.1

However, despite being Medicare beneficiaries, 61% of respondents were unaware that Medicare offers health care benefits, compared to only 39% who said they were aware. Along with cost, a lack of understanding their benefits was reported as a top reason senior citizens choose not to seek mental health care. Similarly, although many respondents—66%—reported being as willing to discuss mental health care as any other type of medical care, 51% said they have never discussed their mental health with their primary doctor.1

Reference

1. Seniors Speak Out on Mental Health. eHealth. February 25, 2022.