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Efforts urged to address elder's mental health

(CRI Online)

10:40, October 11, 2012

With some 180-million people here in China now over the age of 60, the mental health of this country's senior citizens is starting to become more of a concern.

Mr. Li lives in Tianjin.

He suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

"What's this and where do you live?"

"I don't remember that."

Currently 13-percent of China's population is over 60-years of age.

And that figure is going to continue to rise as this country continues to get older.

As such, new concerns about the mental health of China's elderly population are starting to develop, particularly when it comes to the stigma surrounding Alzheimers and other mental disorders.

Kong Lingzhi is the deputy director of the Health Ministry's Department of Disease Control.

"According to research results in some regions, the incidence rate of Alzheimer's disease among over-60 year-old elder people is 4.2%. As for depression, a research result in Beijing says that the incidence among elder people over 65 years old is 4.4%."

It's being predicted that by 2050, one-third of this country's total population - some 400-million people - will be above the age of 60.

As such, Kong Lingzhi says a lot more attention needs to be paid to mental health coverage in China.

Firstly, the service resource is in shortage. In average, we have only 1.58 beds for every ten thousand people in Mental Department, while the world's average level is 4.36 beds for every ten thousand people. There is a big difference with the world's average level. Secondly, we don't have enough professionals. Now, we have only 20 thousand Psychiatric specialists and 35 thousand nurses. It can not satisfy the need of mental health service. Besides, the medical security needs to be improved. The devotion level in basic medical security is quite low."

Over the past 3-years, governments at all levels in China have invested around 15-billion yuan into the improvement of mental health facilities.

Another 6-billion has gone into training professionals, particularly when it comes to identifying mental health disorders.

The central government has put a priority on trying to identify people suffering from mental health issues.

The Health Ministry has laid out a goal of identifying 40-percent of Alzheimer patients in the early stages in routine exams by 2015.

Early identification of the disease is said to be critical in helping treat Alzheimers over the long-term.

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