The experience of growing old in chronic mental health patients

Daniel W. L. LAI*, K. C. Chan, X. J. Xie, G. D. Daoust

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Research evidence has demonstrated disparities and barriers associated with mental illness, which creates challenges for individuals with mental illness to maintain physical, mental, and social health as they age. The aim of this study was to examine the meaning of aging from the perspective of individuals with mental illness and explore their motivations and challenges to adopting healthy aging lifestyles and practices. Method: Using a qualitative narrative inquiry approach, interviews were conducted with 61 aging patients with mental illness aged 40 and older in community and institutional settings in Hong Kong. Results: Participants discussed the meaning of healthy aging in terms of meaningful occupation and use of time, and independence and autonomy. Motivating factors included a desire to avoid ‘burdening’ other people, to ‘give back’ to society, and gain back ‘lost time’. These were connected to strategies for healthy aging, including social relationships and activities, spirituality, and healthy lifestyles. Challenges to adopting healthy aging practices included physical health difficulties and medication side effects, lack of purpose and boredom associated with daily routines and use of time, and conflicts and loss affecting family and peer relationships. Conclusion: Social and health services should be tailored to support aging individuals with mental illness and their families, addressing motivations and barriers to adopting healthy lifestyles. Promoting healthy aging practices to enable individuals with mental illness to achieve healthy aging is important for preparing for the aging of this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1514-1522
Number of pages9
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number9
Early online date2 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

User-Defined Keywords

  • health practices
  • Healthy aging
  • mental health
  • mental illness


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