The state of mental health in old-age across the ‘old’ European Union – a systematic review

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The paper provides the first syllabus on the prevalence of mental disorders in old-age focusing on surveys conducted in the 15 countries, which comprised the ‘old’ European Union.


A systematic search of the literature published from 1990 onwards was conducted.


Mental disorders in old-age are common. The most serious threats to mental health in old-age are posed by dementia and depression. It is a clear cut finding that dementia exponentially increases with age. The basic issue of whether depression increases or decreases with age remains unsolved. Databases on substance use, mild cognitive impairment, psychotic syndromes, anxiety, and somatoform disorders in old-age are much smaller, making conclusions difficult to draw.


Numerous questions in the field remain to be answered. Concerted action is needed to produce comparable data across Europe.

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