More medical experts needed to treat elderly depression, CPPCC told

Ke Jiayun
Online systems recommended for screening patients and encouraging seniors to join more activities and social events to avoid depression.
Ke Jiayun
Shot by Ke Jiayun. Edited by Ke Jiayun. Subtitles by Ke Jiayun.

More psychiatrists and psychotherapists should be trained so that elderly people who suffer from depression can access better treatment, local political advisers suggest.

They also believe that online systems should be developed for screening, consulting and encouraging seniors to join more activities and social events.

Elderly depression is the most common mental disease among seniors, Zhu Hong, secretary-general of non-communist political party Jiusan Society Shanghai Committee, and three other CPPCC members said in their joint proposal to the CPPCC's ongoing fifth plenary session.

It may worsen the physical diseases the elderly already have and cause higher death rates, they said.

Statistics show that the rate of depression suffered by people aged over 55 has reached 10 to 15 percent and the death rate is as high as 30 percent.

"We did investigations in three districts and some nursing homes and found (depression) has become a serious social issue," Zhu told Shanghai Daily. "So we think it should arouse more concern from society.

"Both the public awareness of elderly depression and the training of medics in the field should be enhanced, as well as prevention and nursing."

Their investigation in Huangpu, Fengxian and Songjiang districts found that about 3.5 percent of elderly respondents had anxiety, while 6.5 percent had depression.

The incidence of depression was found to be higher among female respondents than male. Those divorced, living apart or having lost a partner were more likely to be depressed.

However, as public awareness of depression is still comparatively low, many of the symptoms of elderly depression have been neglected or misdiagnosed.

The submission to the CPPCC proposes action to help the public understand elderly depression and treat it correctly.

It also suggests training be strengthened for non-specialist medics in elderly depression, especially those working in community health centers.

More professionals should be cultivated to work in hospitals and communities should be encouraged to organize more events and care for those at risk of elderly depression.

Smart screening systems using intelligent tools also could be introduced, including psychology consulting robots.

Special Reports