It is no surprise that life expectancy has increased. With advances in technology, people are increasingly aware that fitness and health have progressively led people to live longer. There is a plethora of information prioritising regular exercise and proper nutrition that sustains our bodies and keep us healthy. However, despite many areas of advances in human health, these are not matched by progressive improvements in our mental health.
We see the media placing great emphasis on anti-ageing and staying physically fit but rarely do we look at the mental side of this well-being. The mindset of the long life carries longevity, but not necessarily quality and people need to think about ageing, and the process, in a whole new way.
Young adults are reporting higher levels of mental health issues and are facing increasing levels of poor mental health. The World Health Organisation has alerted us that if we do not act urgently, by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease. So, we need to work on our mental health now to assist us in older age. We need to adjust our minds to recognise and cope with the mental health challenges, so we remain healthier and happier in later life.
Life is fast-paced these days, with a work-hard, and single-minded mentality and this is impacting our family life and social relationships. If we want to support ourselves in old age, we need to learn emotional resilience and become robust to the inevitable changes that lay ahead. We need to be learning about ourselves, understanding who we are and find meaning in our lives as we go about our daily activities. We need to make meaning of loss and change. And we need to think of our social structure outside of work and engage in interests other than our leading career before retirement kicks in.
Many never think of another life outside their jobs and have no social structure except the one they have at work. Work relationships are built for work purposes only, and the lucky few manage to maintain the longevity of those relationships outside work and find ways to integrate them into their home life and support network.
The American football coach, Bobby Bowden is known to have said, ‘there is only one big event left after retirement’. None of us gets away from that statement!
More of us can learn from the lifestyle and attitudes many older people take. They engage in personal interests and simple pleasures like walking in nature, good sleep patterns and have a commitment of time for social relationships. If people have failed to create structure and meaning to their life, the danger is that depression builds up because they no longer know what to do with themselves.
Creating a structure to your day, setting goals and staying active in engaging your intellectual brain, along with eating and drinking moderately helps, but more importantly, making time for family and friends will boost your mental well-being. We know this does well to reduce the risks of mental health problems now, and for later life. The best thing to do is to keep busy, but it should always have a purpose.