Objective: Increasing mental health problems in the elderly need systematic community mental health service. This study was performed to get basic data in order to develop a plan and strategy for community mental health services toward the elderly in Korea.
Design: This study was designed to investigate the mental health of the elderly in a community including both urban and rural areas, and to identify the factors influencing their mental health states.
Materials and Methods: A total of 281 subjects were selected through random sampling among residents in a community, who were 60 years and older. The Korean version of the General Health Questionnaire(GHQ)-30 was used to evaluate the mental health states. The survey was administered using a paper copies. The mental health states were analyzed by overall mental health state and four subscales: somatic symptom, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction and severe depression. The socio-demographic characteristics influencing mental health were found out and the high risk groups of mental health were discovered.
Results: (1) Women were significantly worse than men in their overall mental health and scored higher in all subscales. (2) Those who were divorced, bereaved or separated from their spouse showed significantly worse overall mental health as well as more somatic symptom, anxiety and insomnia, and severe depression, (3) Subjects who didn't have their own house showed significantly worse overall mental health as well as more somatic symptom, and anxiety and insomnia. (4) Subjects who didn't get any education showed significantly worse overall mental health as well as more somatic symptom, anxiety and insomnia, and severe depression. (5) Subjects who had family or personal experiences of psychiatric treatment showed significantly worse overall mental health as well as more social dysfunction and anxiety and insomnia. (6) Subjects who lived in rural area showed more anxiety & insomnia than those in urban area. (7) Comparing the high risk group to the non-risk group, those who divorced, bereaved or separated from spouse, had a religion that was not major religion, had experienced with psychiatric treatment of family, and were in low socioeconomic status such as low education levels, unemployment or living with monthly rent were more apt to have mental disease.
Conclusion: The high risk groups of mental illness in the elderly had the following characteristics: women, low education or economic level, family or personal histories of psychiatric treatments, divorce or separation, having a religion that was not major religion. Therefore, appropriate community mental health programs fot the elderly should be provided for these high risk people.
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