Older patients who have common mental health problems are not being offered talking therapies, despite benefiting more from them than younger patients, experts have said.
The authors of a new study published in the British Journal of General Practice say evidence shows elderly patients are being “under-referred” for counselling and other kinds of talking therapies.
The researchers, led by Dr Sophie Pettit of the University of West London, launched a new study looking at the rates of referral for patients of different age groups.
They found that the proportion of patients being identified with common mental health problems peaks for patients aged 20 to 24 where 23 percent are referred for talking therapies.
But just 6 percent of 70 to 74-year-olds were referred for talking therapies according to the study, which examined more than 80,000 referrals for patients from the South West of England.
“The results show that older adults with common mental health problems are being under-referred but benefit more than younger individuals once they obtain access to the service,” the authors wrote.
The study also showed that older patients were more more likely to keep their appointments than younger patients.
The results raise the issue of age discrimination for elderly patients seeking help for common mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.
Dr Amanda Thompsell, chairman of the Old Age Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the report showed “clear discrimination against older people when it comes to talking therapies”.
But she also acknowledged that elderly patients faced barriers that put them at a relative disadvantage.
“Many of the barriers deterring access to the elderly remain, from a lack of provision for home visits or transport to and from appointments, to problems using the internet and their generation’s stoical belief in just getting on with things,” she said.