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Report: Kentucky Ranks 49th in U.S. for Senior Mental Health

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 24.8 percent of Kentucky's population will be age 60 and older by 2030. (Adobe Stock)
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 24.8 percent of Kentucky's population will be age 60 and older by 2030. (Adobe Stock)
May 17, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – More older Kentuckians are struggling with mental-health issues. The latest America's Health Rankings Report found Kentucky is one of the states where high numbers of people age 60 and older report experiencing depression, frequent mental distress and social isolation.

Nationwide, the percentage of seniors diagnosed with depression by a health professional has increased by 19 percentage points in the past year. Dr. Rhonda Randall – executive vice president and chief medical officer of United Healthcare – says for many older people, poverty, living alone, and having a disability all can contribute to mental distress.

"So, those are seniors who are reporting that they feel, experience, mental distress more than 14 days a month,” says Randall. “And the state of Kentucky ranks 49th in the nation for that measure."

Depression among older adults may go undiagnosed, as many are likely to believe the symptoms are an inevitable part of aging, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Randall encourages people of any age who are feeling hopeless or isolated to reach out to their doctor. The Kentucky Mental Health and Aging Coalition, with local chapters across the state, also works to educate families about mental-health issues for older adults.

The report lists Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma as also having high rates of depression and stress among seniors.

The number of older Americans has increased by 45 percentage points since 2000. Randall points out as a large swath of the population ages, looking at the issues that most affect seniors is critical for healthcare providers, families and caregivers.

"There's been a significant demographic shift in the United States,” says Randall. “There's more than 50 million seniors living in the United States. And so, as that population grows, it really makes us want to take a deeper look into the behaviors that individual seniors are engaged in, in the community."

The report also found Kentucky seniors are at least getting the medications they need. The state ranks 8th for its percentage of Medicare beneficiaries 65 and older whose prescriptions are covered through Medicare 'Part D' or another source.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY