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How Life Stages May Affect Your Mental Health
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and into your older years.
Over the course of your life, as you transition through milestones and encounter challenges, you may experience unmanageable stress and mental ill-health where your thinking, mood and behaviour could be affected.
In this section you will find a wealth of information to support you with the different stages of life.
Various challenges to your mental health can occur because of:
Stages of Life – transitioning from a child to adult, developing relationships, becoming a parent and growing older
Major Life Events – such as losing a job or dealing with a long term-injury
Factor in biological influences (genes or brain chemistry), life experiences (such as trauma and abuse) and any family history of mental health problems and you will understand why there may be times throughout your life when you may need extra support or information to cope.
Key stages throughout your life and how you manage them can be a major determinant of your mental health and wellbeing.
Here’s a brief look at mental health development at various life stages.
Young Adults, 17 to 25 years
This can be an extremely challenging time transitioning into the adult world, deciding what to do when leaving school and either heading to further education at College or University or looking for a job.
Leaving school friends, redefining your identity, building new relationships, and enjoying new freedoms can be challenging to work through.
Up to 75% of adults with a diagnosable mental health problem will have experienced their first symptoms by the age of 24.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in this age group.
Intimacy vs. Isolation
Early adulthood (20 – 39 years) is a period where romantic relationships are formed. Relationships with intimate partners take on a prominent role with friends also remaining important during this time. Questions that need to be answered during this stage include can I love others and am I loveable. Long term relationships require commitment, sacrifices and compromises, which may be difficult if people are focused on their own needs. If long term intimate relationships are not achieved during this period isolation can occur.
Adulthood presents a new set of challenges as major life events occur within this period. Developing long term relationships, heartbreak, getting married, having children, long hours of work, job loss, financial worries, an accident or long-term injury or death can all impact mental health.
One in six females in this stage will experience depression compared to one in eight men. One in three females will also likely experience an anxiety condition compared to one in five men.
However, increasing numbers in this stage of life are seeking assistance to help manage their mental health.
Generativity vs. Stagnation
This stage in life is when work and parenthood often take centre stage. Middle adulthood from 40 to 59 years is when we develop our sense of care for others through our work or caregiving. This can also be a stage where we need to care for our own parents. The questions people struggle with during this time include can I make my life count for something and am I growing into someone I am proud of. If we feel unable to make our lives count, we can reach a place where change can feel difficult.
This is a time where there are usually many tasks in a person’s life such as
maintaining health lifestyle habits
creating a home
looking after parents as they get older
preparing and helping children to leave home
it can be a lot to deal with in a short period of time. It is also a time when people share past life experience to future generations. For example, this can be done with a persons own children, through work and leisure activities.
Older Adults and Retirement
Age associated health conditions, death of friends or family, retirement from work and transitioning to a different pace of life all present new mental health and wellbeing challenges. Uncertainty, worry and sadness are common feelings which may arise preventing seniors from enjoying their life.
Older people may experience:
It’s important to maintain mental health and wellbeing at this stage, not just so you can get through the day but so you can maintain healthy relationships with others and appreciate life to the fullest.
Ego Integrity vs. Despair
This is the last stage and occurs from 60 years till death. This is when people reflect on their life. The most significant relationships during this time expand to all of humankind seeing the connections with many other people. This is a time when wisdom is developed. If people are unhappy with the way they have lived their life they enter a period of despair. This despair can lead to depression and hopelessness and many people need to grieve the loss of the hope they held for their life during early life. Many people can find other sources of pride in their life such as participating in voluntary work or caring for grandchildren.