Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, has focused on the health of people aged between 50 and 70 – often called the ‘baby boomers’ – in her latest annual report on the state of the public’s health.
The report, titled ‘Baby Boomers: Fit for the Future’, covers topics such as the impact of lifestyle choices on current and future health, mental health, sexual health, and screening and immunisation programmes.
While the report finds that retirement presents an opportunity for baby boomers to be more active than before, it also shows that the mental health needs of baby boomers are substantial in many respects, with 18% reported to have depression or anxiety disorder. This is twice the proportion in the generation born before 1945. Men around the age of 50 have the highest suicide rate of all age groups.
Professor Robert Stewart, Head of Clinical and Population Informatics for the NIHR Maudsley BRC, co-authored the report’s chapter on mental health, and comments that: “Levels of mental health problems in the ‘baby boomer’ generation are substantial, which raises questions about how we can address the specific needs of people in this age group. Working age mental health services tend to focus on people in their 20s and 30s, and older adults services on people in their 80s and 90s. There’s rather a gap in the middle and yet this is where mental health problems seem to be most common.”
“There are also important social and economic factors to take into account – for example, we found that baby boomers living in the fifth of households with the lowest income are three times more likely to have symptoms of depression than those in the highest income homes. As people enter retirement or reduce their hours of working, they spend an increasing amount of time at home, and so the importance of housing conditions, and the home environment, for the mental health of this age group may increase.”