INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL WORK ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF THE ELDERLY IN THE COMMUNITY

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Revista Argentina de Clínica Psicológica 2020, Vol. XXIX, N°1, 1070-1075

DOI: 10.24205/03276716.2020.151 1070

I

NFLUENCE OF

S

OCIAL

W

ORK ON THE

M

ENTAL

H

EALTH OF THE

E

LDERLY IN THE

C

OMMUNITY

Qi Sun

1,2*

Abstract

The elderly is prone to mental health problems, due to changes in their social status, body conditions and family environment. This paper investigates the influence of social work on the mental health of the elderly in the community. The elderly in five communities were subjected to questionnaire surveys and interviews on their mental health status, cognition of mental health and community work. The collected data were fully analysed, revealing that: most of the elderly have a positive attitude towards life, for 85% of them considered aging as a normal process and 38% felt that getting old is better than expected; most elderly people are reluctant to participate in psychological counselling classes, but willing to acquire mental health knowledge through community publicity and learning; reasonable social work is conducive to the mental health of the elderly. This research offers new ideas on improving the mental health and life quality of the elderly in the community.

Key words: Anti-Aging, The Elderly in The Community, Mental Health, Social Work.

Received: 18-02-19 | Accepted: 10-09-19

INTRODUCTION

According to the concept of social

demography, the people between the ages of 60-65 are defined as the elderly (Borson, Bartels, Colenda et al., 2001; Lai, 2009; Olesen & Berry, 2011). Mental health is mainly characterized by

coordinated behaviour, appropriate

interpersonal relationships, sound will,

psychological age compliance, emotional health, normal intelligence, and normal response (Berkman, 1978; Nguyen, Shibusawa, & Chen, 2012). Nowadays, the rapid development of

society and economy has resulted in the elderly’s

changes of social status, deterioration of physiological functions, and decline of income

levels, which further intensifies the

psychological problems of the elderly. Thus, the

1School of Marxism Studies, Nanjing University of

Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing 211106, China.

2School of Marxism Studies, Jiangsu University of Science and

Technology, Zhenjiang 212003, China E-Mail: rw_sq@just.edu.cn

mental health of the elderly requires social

attention (Mosher-Ashley, 1994; Coduti,

Tugman, Bruyère et al, 2015). Especially in China with a large population, the aging of population is more significant. The mental health of the elderly has a huge influence on social and economic development, social culture and

people's happiness. The elderly’s mental health

shall be one of the major social issues that need to be addressed in the coming decades (Brown, Mason, Spokane et al., 2009; Grundy, Albala, Allen et al., 2012).

Related statistics and studies have shown that the elderly suffer a decline in physical function, multiple diseases, memory loss, and frustrations of aging, death, and so on, which have different degrees of negative impact on their psychology, mood, personality, and will (Dallaire, Mccubbin, Carpentier et al., 2008; Zanjani, Kruger, & Murray, 2012; Brat, 2002). Although the physical conditions of some elderly can meet the basic needs of life, the above negative factors still bring different problems to their mental health, and some problems of physical and mental health even threaten the safety

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of life. So, it’s also urgent to satisfy both the mental

and psychological demands of the elderly (Mierlo, Wiel, Meiland et al., 2015; Heiden, Holden, Alder et al., 2017).

In view of the above problems, this paper investigates the mental health status of the elderly in a certain community by means of questionnaire survey, to make a preliminary understanding and data statistics of the community work and psychological status from the perspectives of the

elderly’s life attitude, interpersonal communication,

social adaptation and cognitive level. Then, it summed up the causes of mental health-related

problems in the elderly, and proposed

corresponding improvement measures about social work.

SURVEY ON MENTAL HEALTH STATUS OF THE ELDERLY

Mental health status

From the perspective of subjective well-being of

the elderly, this survey aims to study the elderly’s

mental health status from the aspects of social adaptability, interpersonal communication, aging attitude, emotional change level and cognitive level. The sampling was first determined in five communities, and 560 elderly people over 60 years old were randomly selected in the community to make interview and fill out the questionnaire. The

interview was conducted mainly between

community workers and the elderly, about the life satisfaction, mental health awareness, respect level, and opinions on community building etc.; the questionnaire mainly covers the mental health, cognition and needs, general living conditions, and participation in social activities of the elderly. A total of 497 valid questionnaires were recovered, with an effective rate of 88.75%.

The attitude towards aging is an important indicator to measure the mental health status of the

elderly. It’s analysed from the five dimensions, as

shown in Table 1.

Table 1.

Attitudes towards Ageing

Survey indicators No Uncertain Yes

Old people are useless 14% 21% 65%

Aging is normal 6% 7% 87%

Old age is better than expected 15% 42% 43%

Satisfaction with the present life 16% 12% 72%

Hope for the future 11% 26% 63%

It can be seen from Table 1 above that most of

the elderly have a more positive attitude towards life. Among them, 87% of the elderly think that it is normal for people to get older, and 43% think that old age is better than expected; although the proportion of optimistic elderly are relatively high, that with a general view is second only to the former;

6% don’t think that the aging is normal, which

occupies the lowest proportion, while the elderly with negative views on the future occupies 11%. In

addition, during the interview, it’s found that the

elderly is most worried about the problems related to their children, and the second is their own health. Table 2 lists the survey results of the social adaptability. The data indicates that the elderly have a good degree of social adaptation, and many indicators are positive results; the proportions of the elderly feeling loneliness and fear of social progress in negative emotions are 28% and 57%, and that considering everything from their own interests is 18%. Besides, it further indicates that 10%-20% of the elderly are difficult to integrate into the social changes, resulting in negative emotions, which in turn affect their mental health.

Table 2.

Social adaptability

Survey indicators No Uncertain Yes

Society is lonely 61% 11% 28%

Fear of social change 58% 27% 15%

Reluctance to try new things 60% 23% 17%

Society is progressing 30% 13% 57%

Everything starts from one's

own interests 54% 28% 18%

Table 3.

Interpersonal communication

Survey indicators No Uncertain Yes

Always feel isolated and helpless 23% 24% 53%

Don't like to bother others 8% 35% 57%

Can't get rid of the depression in

the heart 24% 35% 41%

People around you are not

friendly enough to themselves 70% 21% 9%

Reluctance to contact strangers 23% 31% 46%

The survey results of the interpersonal communication are shown in Table 3. It can be seen that the elderly have certain problems in interpersonal communication; they like to solve problems themselves, and do not like to trouble others; only 23% elders are willing to contact strangers, while more than 21% are uncertain about other attitudes towards them; males are more socially active than females, and females usually participate in activities with their spouses, lacking permanent social objects. When the elders do not

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INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL WORK ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF THE ELDERLY IN THE COMMUNITY 1072

have family members for a long time, they are prone to social emotions such as autism, depression, and fear, thereby affecting their mental health

Mental health cognition

The elder’s cognition of mental health was

investigated using the questionnaire from the aspects: ways to eliminate bad mood, common mental illness, access to mental health knowledge, ways to effectively improve mental health. First, the survey was conducted on whether the elderly is interested in understanding the knowledge of mental health and whether they will seek professional help. The results are shown in Table 4.

Table 4.

Basic questionnaire

Survey indicators No Uncertain Yes

Be interested in understanding

the knowledge of mental health 18% 25% 67%

Seek professional help 41% 32% 27%

Table 4 indicates that 67% of the elderly are interested in mental health knowledge, but their understanding of mental health knowledge among the elderly is limited to the cognitive level; only 36% are willing to accept the help of professionals when encountering mental health problems.

The questionnaire surveyed how the elderly remove their bad moods from 6 aspects, as shown in Figure 1. It can be seen that 89% choose the correct ways, and only 11% use the incorrect way by angering others.

Figure 1

.

How the Elderly Remove Bad

Emotions

43 11 16 21 1 8 0 10 20 30 40 50

Other s Psyc holo gica l cou nsel ling Exch ange with frien ds Tell your fam ily Ang er oth

ers se lf-regu latio n V ar io u s p ro p o rt io n (%)

Figure 2 shows the survey results of the channels for acquiring mental health knowledge. 42% prefer the daily discussion, only 1% chooses active learning, and 24% believe that there is no good channel.

Figure 3 shows the ways to acquire psychological knowledge by the elderly participating in the survey. Among them, 35% of the elderly think that the most effective way is to participate in the study, and only 8% are willing to attend psychological counselling, indicating that the elderly is more willing to acquire knowledge through community publicity and learning, but not the psychological counselling classes.

Figure 2

.

Channels for Acquiring Mental

Health Knowledge

13 20 42 1 24 0 10 20 30 40 50 Not hing Lea rnin g Dis cuss V a ri o u s p ro p o rt io n (%) Com mun ity publ icity M

edia

Figure 3

.

Ways to Acquire Psychological

Knowledge

23 19 15 35 8 0 10 20 30 40 50 V ar io u s p ro p o rt io n (%) Com mun ity publ icity M

edia com mun icat ion Lea rnin g Psy chol ogic a Co unse ling

Community work and results

The survey on community work was carried out in the following three aspects: the purpose of participating in the activity, the reasons for participating in the activity, and the types of activities to be investigated and analysed.

From Figure 4, the survey results show that the main purposes for the elderly to participate in

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activities and learning are to maintain health care and meet hobbies and interests, accounting for 65%, and a small number of participants seek for communicating with others or killing the time, respectively, accounting for 14 % and 6% respectively.

Figure 5 shows that the main reasons affecting their participation in the activities are lack of time and disinterest, accounting for 65% of the total number of surveys; 9% elders choose the health factors, and 15% thinks that there are some other reasons.

Figure 4

.

Purpose of participation

25 40

13 14

6 2 0

10 20 30 40 50

Re-e mpl

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Kill tim

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Cont act

Kno wle

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(%)

Inte rest

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Figure 5

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Reasons for Participation

39

26

2 13

9 15

0 10 20 30 40 50

Oth ers Body Chan

ce Fam

ily Inte

rest Tim

e

V

a

ri

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s

p

ro

p

o

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io

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(%)

Figure 6 shows the community activities that the elderly is willing to participate in. It can be seen that the main activities of the elderly are sports and literature, accounting for 35% and 32% respectively, and those attending training seminars and volunteer services account for 9%.

Figure 6

.

Types of participation

35 32

18

6 5

4

0 10 20 30 40 50

V

ar

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p

ro

p

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rt

io

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(%)

liter atur

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Spor ts

Vol unte

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Com petit

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Ente rtain

men t

In summary, the survey results show that there exist some problems with the mental health of the elderly in China, mainly in the following three aspects: first, regarding their mental health status, some elderly are not optimistic about aging, and they have poor social adaptability and interpersonal communication ability; second, the elderly generally lack the knowledge of mental health and have little understanding of the diseases, because they lack the initiative to actively learn mental health knowledge, and have resistance to seeking professional help; thirdly, the main community activities that the elderly participate in are recreations and sports, and they have low interest in health, health care, science and technology and other activities

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AND COMMUNITY WORK STRATEGIES FOR THE ELDERLY IN THE COMMUNITY

Causes of mental health problems in the elderly The mental health of the elderly in the community is influenced by the family environment, the surrounding interpersonal relationship and the relationship with the spouse. Also, their physical

condition, education level, personality

characteristics and income level also have direct impact on mental health.

At the social level, the main factors that cause mental health problems in the elderly include socio-economic development and cultural renewal,

changes in social organizational structure,

development of information technology, and the lack of social mental health education for the elderly. As the elderly grow older, they gradually withdraw from the mainstream development platform of the society, and the social contacts begin to become

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age groups of the same age or similar situation. They have less exchanges and contacts with other age groups of society, which shall finally cause the elderly to stay away from the mainstream development of society and social culture. Then, the transformation of the family structure and the lack of social support and social services such as pension and medical security in the society have also greatly affected the life quality of the elderly and led to the

psychological problems. In addition, the

development of mental health education is relatively backward. The society ignores the importance of mental health education for the elderly. Affected by traditional concepts, most of the elderly lack a rational understanding of the physical health, emotional and psychological problems.

At the family level, the relationship between family members is closely related to the spiritual needs of the elderly. Good family relationships and spiritual exchanges between family members have a greater benefit to the mood of the elderly, while the ignored spiritual exchanges and disharmonious family relationships of the elderly can easily lead to psychological problems such as low mood, loneliness and memory loss. Besides, the harmonious spousal relationship and the mental health and physical condition of the spouse also have a negligible influence on the psychological status of the elderly. The complete family relationship is the basis for the elderly to maintain an optimistic attitude. In short, the mental health of the elderly in the community is influenced by the social environment, the family and their own conditions.

Social work strategies for the elderly

It requires social intervention and education to solve the mental health problems of the elderly in the community. The whole society can take appropriate attitudes towards the challenges of aging, so that the elderly can establish harmonious interpersonal relationships with people from different walks of life, and maintain their learning ability and motivation, and be able to face their inner psychological needs.

For social groups, some effective measures should be taken to follow and interfere with the mental health of the elderly. From the perspective of aging, feasible social work should be able to fully stimulate the self-motivation of the elderly to cope with mental health problems, transform their negative coping attitudes and mental health related concepts of this group to the aging, in order to improve their precaution consciousness of mental

problems and coping ability. After improving the

elderly’s awareness of mental health, it is necessary

to start from external conditions and use social work to create an environment conducive to the mental health of the elderly, including: promoting the social welfare of the elderly, improving the laws and regulations that protect the rights and interests of the elderly, increase the funding of mental health education for the elderly, create a cultural atmosphere that is conducive to the mental health of the elderly, and enhance the social participation of the elderly.

In addition, community work has a positive effect on improving the mental health of the elderly and can effectively improve the happiness of the elderly in the community. The community work includes: effectively integrate the mental health education resources of the elderly and create a harmonious and comfortable community living environment, providing mental health education services for the elderly; encourage their offspring to understand the mentality of the elderly and care for their life and spiritual needs, which can promote the sense of well-being and belonging; make full use of human

resources, volunteers and mental health

professionals in the community, and promote the government's policies on mental health education for the elderly.

The study found that social work is particularly

important for the cognitive level of the elderly’s

mental health and self-positive awareness. Reasonable social work and social activities are conducive to the mental health and physical health of the elderly. The society needs to have a new understanding of the mental health of the elderly and take active measures.

CONCLUSIONS

Based on the statistical results of the questionnaires on the living and psychological conditions of the elderly, this paper studies the impact of social work on the mental health and life satisfaction of the elderly from the perspective of anti-aging. The main conclusions are as follows:

(1) 80% of the elderly think that the most effective way to ensure mental health is psychological education; the elderly is more willing to acquire knowledge through community publicity and learning, but not participating in psychological counselling classes;

(2) The mental health of the elderly in the community is influenced by the social environment, family relationships, and the physical condition,

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education level, personality characteristics, and income level;

(3) Reasonable social work and social activities are conducive to the mental health and physical health of the elderly. The society needs to have a new understanding of the mental health of the elderly and take active measures.

Acknowledgement

This research has been financed by The Humanities and Social Science Research Project in

2015 of the Ministry of Education “Research on

Chinese Dream and Belief ethics” (15YJC710027).

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