Mental health issues through the decades: What you need to know
At every stage of our lives, we face different mental health challenges—from depression and anxiety to burnout and stress. As we age, the mental health issues that we face change—life’s stressors, risks, and challenges shift and it is important to be aware of the different issues that may arise.
Taking care of your mental well-being should be a priority whether you are in your 20s, 60s, or somewhere in between. It is never too soon or too late to start looking after your mental health.
Mental health in your 20s
Just over 13% of Canadians between 20-29 years have said that their mental health is fair to poor. Research indicates that depression has a typical onset during the mid-20s, so it’s no surprise that over ⅛ of Canadians in their 20s experience depression. In 2022, a study conducted by Mental Health Research Canada found that 17% of those aged 20-29 reported feelings of depression.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health issue characterized by worrying excessively and uncontrollably about day-to-day events and activities. During the pandemic, 13.6% of Canadians experienced GAD, with women being more affected than men (17.2% versus 9.9%). Another study found that 26% of Canadians aged 20-29 reported experiencing anxiety during 2022.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are commonly present during your early 20s. Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, feels, behaves, and relates to others, and is often characterized by delusions and hallucinations. Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that results in a person experiencing periods of depression and periods of elevated moods.
Mental health in your 30s
Canadians in their 30s also struggle with depression and anxiety.
- 19% of Canadians aged 35-39 and 17% of those aged 30-34 reported experiencing depression
- 27% of Canadians aged 30-39 reported experiencing anxiety during 2022
From financial stress to work stress to family stress, Canadians in their 30s are no strangers to stress. Thirty-six percent of Canadians aged 35-39 reported feeling like most days are stressful or extremely stressful. This stress often leads to burnout—51% of Canadians in their 30s said they don’t particularly enjoy what they do.
While postpartum depression and anxiety don’t exclusively affect women in their 30s, the average age of childbirth in Canada is 31.3 years old. Twenty-three percent of new mothers in Canada reported feelings consistent with postpartum depression.
Mental health in your 40s
Canadians in their 40s battle a lot of the same mental health concerns as those in their 30s.
- 19% of the Canadian population between 40 and 49 have reported experiencing depression
- 27% of Canadians aged 40-49 reported experiencing anxiety during 2022
- 27.5% of Canadians aged 40-49 perceived their life to be extremely stressful most days
One of the biggest issues that presents in your 40s is loneliness. One study looked at the levels of loneliness throughout the decades and they pinpointed a peak in the mid-40s.
Mental health in your 50s
In your 50s, stress, depression, and anxiety still present as issues.
- 19% of Canadians aged 50-54 and 7% of Canadians aged 55-59 reported experiencing depression
- 27% of Canadians aged 50-54 and 12% of Canadians ages 55-59 reported experiencing anxiety during 2022
- 22% of Canadians aged 50-59 reported they experience extreme stress on most days
Menopause is a major mental—and physical—health concern for women in their 50s. The average age that women transition through menopause in Canada is 51.5 years and a lot of the symptoms can impact their mental health. The fluctuations and eventual loss of estrogen can have a negative impact on your mental well-being and can cause sleep disturbances, cognitive decline, and depressive symptoms.
Mental health in your 60s
A lot of mental health issues in the 60+ crowd tend to go undiagnosed for several reasons:
- They still feel there is a stigma surrounding mental illness
- They are unlikely to complain about their mental health
- They distrust psychological treatment options
- Their symptoms are mistaken as a “normal” part of the aging process
- Their lack of support systems means symptoms go unnoticed
In your 60s, stress, depression, and anxiety still present as issues.
- 7% of people 60 and older in Canada reported experiencing depression
- 12% of Canadians over 60 reported experiencing feelings of anxiety
- 22% of Canadians aged 60-64 and 10.6% of Canadians aged 65+ reported they experienced extreme stress on most days
Signs of mental health issues to look out for
Mental health is something that should always be on your radar. And while we can do everything in our power to protect our good mental health, it is also important to know the warning signs of mental health disorders to be able to react—and get help—quickly. Some of the signs of mental health issues you can look for are:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in mood including anger, sadness, or irritability
- Unusual or out-of-character behaviour
- Memory loss
- Withdrawal from their usual routine
- Increased dependence on drugs or alcohol
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Hallucinations or delusions
If you have concerns about your mental well-being—or the mental well-being of someone you love—contact a doctor and ask for an evaluation.
If you are in need of mental health support in Canada, these resources can help:
Kids Help Phone
Text Services: Text "CONNECT" to 686868 (also serving adults)
Chat Services: https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/
Crisis Services Canada
Toll Free (24/7): 1 (833) 456-4566
Text support (4pm-12am ET daily): 45645
Canadian Crisis Hotline
1 (888) 353-2273
The LifeLine App
Individual circumstances may vary. Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.
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