In an aging Thai society, mental health issues plague seniors

BANGKOK: Depression has become one of the major illnesses afflicting the elderly in a rapidly aging Thai society.

However, conversations about mental health in older society remain less prevalent than they should be.

Dr Titima Wongviriyawong, a geriatrician at Siriraj Hospital in Thailand, said older people may not know what constitutes a mental health problem.

“It’s about knowledge about mental health issues,” she said.

But even those who know may refuse to acknowledge mental health issues “because they feel weak”, Dr Titima said, adding that stigma is also a barrier for older people seeking help.

In the past, there were about seven cases of suicide among the elderly per 100,000 people, but in the past five years that rate has risen to 11 per 100,000 people, she noted.

With a rising suicide rate among the elderly, Dr. Titima worries that unresolved mental health issues could lead to more suicides in this group.

“It’s a very big concern. The main factor is due to the financial issues and the mental health issue as well,” she said.

She suggested that solving the problem requires cooperation with multiple segments of the government, community and private sectors.

According to Thailand’s mental health department, around 14% of the country’s 12 million elderly people this year are at risk of depression, and the problem is expected to worsen.


Failure to detect and treat mental health problems early may not just be a problem for individuals and their families, doctors said.

Dr Sakarn Charoensakulchai from Phramongkutklao College of Medicine said these diseases have a social and economic cost to the country.

The government should use public health funds to address mental health issues, he noted.

He added that since older people are expected to have the potential to work into their 70s in the future, if a larger population of older people suffer from mental health issues, “it could reduce the ability of the labor force of our country”. .

Dr. Titima zoomed in on the social and economic implications of suicide.

“If old people can kill themselves because they think they are useless, worthless, have no money… then other people around them will see that as an example and they could follow that person,” she added. said.

Both Dr Sakarn and Dr Titima said Thailand lacks the resources and knowledge to tackle mental health issues, and they expect more older people to face mental health issues. as the population ages.

According to the United Nations, in less than 20 years, Thailand will be a “super-aged” society where one in four Thais will be over 65, compared to one in eight currently.


The Director General of the Department of Mental Health, Dr Ampon Benjaponpitak, agreed that areas such as wellbeing and related laws needed improvement.