Rural Localities Have a Positive Effect on the Mental Health of the Elderly

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We live in an era of individualism. The concept of families and friends is slowly fading as we progress further into a never-ending world of depression and deteriorating mental health. If there is anyone suffering the most out of these current social structures across the globe, it has to be the elderly.

Our mental health is dependent on how we decide to perceive our existence. If we associate more positive thoughts to ourselves during a day, we are more likely to be in a better mental state and be happier, as opposed to keeping a more pessimist outlook during one’s day.

There are several benefits associated with having better mental health. If such is the case, we would fit in better with society, retain a higher self-esteem, and to sum it all up, we would contribute more to our society. The benefits of a happier state of mind do not only pertain to the society but being optimistic also helps one be less susceptible to illnesses, and recover more efficiently in case we have already fallen prey to some disease.

So far, the mental health of our elderly was of the least interest to the scientists and researchers across the globe, until a team of scientists from the University of Barcelona decided to conduct a study in this regard. The team included Manuela Alcañiz, Maria-Carme Riera-Prunera, and Aïda Solé-Auró.

Their study, that was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, concluded that the elderly living in the rural areas had better mental health and were less prone to aging. This was partly because of their perception of the atmosphere. While living in the rural areas, they did not have to face any serious emotional or economic problems, neither did they have to worry about their low level of education.

A survey was conducted amongst the entire elderly population of Catalonia. The survey included 1219 men and 1402 women, of ages 65 and above. The survey divided the elderly population into three parts, based on the areas that they lived in: rural, semi-urban, and urban. Each one of them was given a questionnaire that asked them about the socio-demographic factors surrounding them. The Short Warwick-Edinburgh scale of mental well-being was then used to draw a depiction of the mental wellbeing of the elderly that were included in the survey.

The purpose of the survey was to figure out the ways in which the rurality of the environment, where the elderly resided, affected their mental well-being. The researchers discovered that elderly who resided in rural areas had better mental health than those who lived in semi-urban or urban areas, and there are certain reasons behind this research.

The urban areas come with their own set of problems. They might be very well suited for young people who are looking forward to making a breakthrough in life and still have the energy for it. As more and more people across the globe migrate from rural areas to urban areas, the survivability becomes more difficult. The basic necessities of life become more and more expensive to afford and with that arise the economic problems. The bigger the urban city is, the more traffic it will house and the more activity it will possess. This will cause problems for the elderly with their highly sensitive sleeping routine. Urban areas include people from all races and ethnic backgrounds. As much as this tends to add cultural diversity, it does lead to cultural differences as well, and people lose patience towards other cultures and ethnicities as they grow old. People are more like to be comfortable with their own race and religion, while the elderly people also receive more social support in the rural communities, and they don’t have to bother dealing with family problems.

Mental health plays the most crucial role in the physical wellbeing of a human, be it a youngster, teenager, adult, or elderly. It becomes even more critical while considering the elderly as they are on the verge of their physical health already, and bad mental health only adds to the problems. Finally, as the study concluded, we need better policies regarding the localities people are placed in as they near their old age.

References

Manuela Alcañiz et al, “When I Retire, I’ll Move Out of the City”: Mental Well-being of the Elderly in Rural vs. Urban Settings, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2020). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17072442

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