A University of Manitoba study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has found that a greater percentage of adults 55 years of age and older have positive attitudes and beliefs about seeking professional mental health help than younger adults.
Researchers wanted to explore why usage rates of mental health services by older adults are lower than younger people. They looked at 5,692 adults in the U.S. and found that more than 80 per cent of participants had positive help-seeking attitudes and more than 70 per cent reported positive treatment beliefs. When they examined age differences in attitudes and beliefs, Americans aged 18 to 24 years were two to three times less likely to report positive help-seeking attitudes than adults aged 55 to 74 years.
“What this means is, contrary to common thought, older adults are more open than younger adults in seeking help,” said Dr. Corey S. Mackenzie, co-researcher and assistant professor in the department of psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba.
Participants answered three questions in order to assess their attitudes towards seeking professional health services, and one question to examine their beliefs about the percentage of people with serious mental health concerns who benefit from professional help. The paper concluded that attitudes and beliefs are unlikely barriers for older adults when it comes to using mental health services. Rather, it suggests that older adults are less likely to seek help due to other reasons, such as financial or knowledge barriers.
The paper, titled Older Adults’ Help-Seeking Attitudes and Treatment Beliefs Concerning Mental Health Problems was authored by Dr. Mackenzie, Dr. Jitender Sareen, associate professor in the department of psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine, and students Tiffany Scott and Amber Mather.
For more information contact Dr. Corey Mackenzie, assistant professor, department of psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba at (204) 474-8260.