Geriatric Mental Health: Recent Trends in Molecular Neuroscience

By Rao, T. Sathyanarayana; Praveena, B. et al. | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January-March 2010 | Go to article overview

Geriatric Mental Health: Recent Trends in Molecular Neuroscience


Rao, T. Sathyanarayana, Praveena, B., Rao, K. Jagannatha, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: T. Sathyanarayana Rao, B. Praveena, K. Jagannatha Rao

For every eight seconds, a Baby Boomer turns 60 in the world. By 2015, nearly 15% of our population will be over 65 years of age. This is increasing and expected to increase geriatric population burden in health and financial sector in every country. We have limited geriatric healthcare and care giving facilities and this is the essential need due to changing social and financial spheres in our lives. Research on aging and aging processes leads the way to a greater understanding of all age-related diseases.[sup] [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6] It has the potential to improve public health to a far greater extent than science that examines only one disease at a time. Research on aging also provides the hope and the promise for everyone to live healthier, longer lives, less susceptible to disease and disability. Aging research is likely to be the least expensive path to preventing and curing many diseases of aging. Studying aging requires two complementary approaches: studying the components of disease that are related to aging and studying the underlying mechanisms of aging and how they regulate the processes in our bodies.[sup] [7],[8] In USA, for 28 years, the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) has been at the forefront of this revolutionary approach to the science of healthier aging. AFAR has played a major role in providing and advancing knowledge of aging and mechanisms of age-related diseases by providing grants to more than 2,600 talented scientists. There is an urgent need in India too to have advanced research in aging related to Indian situation. We don't have any cross sectional study either on healthy aging or age related neurological disorders and their burden in India. Government of India need to play a significant role in funding geriatric research.

Americans are living longer than ever, according to the latest life expectancy statistics. But American men still aren't living as long as American women. The average life expectancy for men in the US is now roughly 75 years. For women, it's more than 80. Exactly why men are shorter-lived than women isn't entirely clear. Even in infancy, boys run a higher risk of dying than girls, and researchers aren't sure why. Research, however, does suggest that a leading reason for the "longevity gap" between men and women is that men don't take care of themselves as well as women do. Surveys have found, for example, that women are much more likely to have a regular healthcare provider, and to see him or her within the course of the year, than men are. Men are also more likely to engage in "risky" behavior - like smoking and drinking heavily then women.

The greatest health asset for geriatric population is spending time and doing things with other people, of all ages, which can help keep them mentally, physically and emotionally fit. It can also give brain a boost and lift the mood. They need to volunteer, or join community or other groups and get involved in activities they enjoy. But in the current situation is not so satisfactory for our aged. In India, there is an urgent need to develop models to keep geriatric populations active through out life. We need to provide a comprehensive plan on post retirement healthy and active living.[sup] [9],[10],[11]

Unhealthy aging is a risk factor for geriatric mental disorders. The failure in normal healthy aging leads to mental disorders in aged population. Bipolar disorder (BD) is a major geriatric mental health problem and affects about 1% of the population and causes severe neuropsychological impairments and is implicated in functional impairment.

What is meant by normal aging and healthy aging and what are the triggering risk factors for geriatric mental health problems are the major puzzling issues. We need to understand biology of aging properly. Biological changes during aging include neuropeptide (involved in memory and emotion), calcium balance, hormones like oxytocin, neural networks, metal homeostasis, and genetic instability and related gene expression changes.

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