Depression and anxiety are both medical conditions that affect the brain’s ability to regulate your mood and reaction to what is happening around you. As we age and experience hormonal and personal changes, mental health can suffer at times. In this article, we explore depression and anxiety and some general themes around preventing or minimising its impact.
It is important to observe that mental health conditions are manageable when you receive the right support. If you are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety, you do not have to suffer alone; you should actively seek support from qualified health professionals or contact support services like Beyond Blue or Lifeline (see below).
It can help to know that it is not uncommon for many Australians to suffer from depression and anxiety. In fact, according to the ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, it is estimated that almost half of all Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Additionally, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and about 2 million have anxiety.
Some of the factors that cause depression and anxiety can be minimised through lifestyle and behaviour choices, while others may be genetic or specific to the functioning of the body and require medical support. Your GP, pharmacist or qualified therapist or counsellor will work with you to find the help that works for you.
Here are some general lifestyle and behavioural actions that may help minimise depression and anxiety.
- Surround Yourself With Loved Ones
Later in life our social structure often changes, for example, if you have been parents and your children have left the nest or, if ill-health impacts our connection to networks of friends. For some people, this may see a tendency to retreat and avoid close relationships. However, surrounding yourself with loved ones, including friends and partners, has been shown to reduce anxiety. This may not be easy to achieve, but it is worth staying physically-connected to that network if possible.
- Meet With Your Family and Friends Virtually
If you are unable to maintain close physical relationships with family and friends due to geography, mobility or other challenges, staying connect through technology is a great way to socialise. Smartphones, desktop and laptop computers and tablet devices are readily available, and applications like Skype, Zoom or Google Meets enable video calls to happen at the touch of a button.
Australia has shown through the Covid-19 crisis that virtual communications work to keep us connected. Draw on this new mainstream behaviour and try to catch-up with friends and family remotely through technology to help combat feelings of loneliness.
Another option available through technology is to connect with people through online communities. You can find like-minded people in these environments and discuss shared interests and passions. That can be through discussion threads on online publications, within groups on social media platforms or, more elaborate digital experiences like streaming services with interactive chat functions.
It is worth noting that cyber-crime and exploitative individuals exist as much online as in real life. They can use sophisticated methods to present themselves as genuine people. If someone you meet online asks you for personal information or things like financial support, be cautious and seek the advice of a trusted friend about how to respond.
- Stay Physically Active
Staying physically active is not only good for your self-esteem, but it is also good for your brain and your body. There is growing scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of exercise to help reduce depression and anxiety, including in older people.
The ideal amount of physical exercise is 150 minutes every week. Choose an activity that you most like, and that is most comfortable for you, such as walking briskly or aerobics.
There are some simple actions you can take day-to-day to help minimise the impact of depression and anxiety. You should seek help if you are suffering from friends and family or qualified health care practitioners. Getting help can be as simple as contacting organisations like Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Written by Sasha A.
With a B.A. in Anthropology and a Master of Science, Sasha shares her knowledge in articles about food, nutrition, health, and fitness.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results. 2007
 Van Hout H P J. Cost-effectiveness of a stepped care intervention to prevent depression and anxiety in late life: Randomised trial. 2010-05
 Ströhle A. Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. 2008-08-23
 Mura G, Carta M G. Physical Activity in Depressed Elderly. A Systematic Review. 2013-07-12
All articles are provided as general information and are not intended, nor may it be construed, as medical advice or instruction. Information and opinions expressed are believed to be correct and accurate to the best knowledge and judgement of the authors. Readers should consult their appropriately qualified health care professional prior to taking any action or inaction.