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How Age Affects Mental Health

People tend to assume that getting older is awful and depressing, which is not surprising in our youth-oriented culture. The good news is that recent research (including work in our lab) suggests that mental health tends to improve as we age. In addition to documenting this phenomenon and understanding why it occurs, our lab is also interested in mental health problems that can occur in later life, with a particular focus on anxiety disorders and older men.

Mental Health Service Use

It is truly unfortunate that the majority of those of us who have diagnosable mental disorders do not seek professional help, even though effective interventions are available. It is even more unfortunate that certain groups, notably older adults, are especially unlikely to seek professional help when they have clinically significant mental health problems. Our lab has a long-standing interest in exploring barriers to mental health service use for older adults.

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Caregiver Stress

Because caring for older adults with dementia is a challenging and stressful experience research in our lab has explored a number of interventions aimed at helping lay and professional caregivers cope more effectively. As well, the Aging and Mental Health Laboratory has studied the influence of stress on the cognitive abilities of caregivers. It is well known that caregiver stress has negative effects on physical and mental health, so perhaps it's not surprising that its also bad for caregivers' attention, memory, and executive functioning.

Men's Sheds

Men's sheds started in Australia in the late 1970s and officially started in 1998. Since that time the Men's Sheds movement is growing internationally, with the first Canadian Shed starting in Winnipeg in 2011. Sheds are grassroots groups run primary by men, for men, to support men's health and well-being. Our lab is leading a project, funded by Movember Canada, aimed at helping Men's Sheds in Canada to grow by developing: (a) a toolkit to help new groups start sheds, and (b) a website to connect shedders across the country and internationally.