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Promoting mental wellbeing in the ageing population

Specific challenge: Health and care of the rapidly growing older population in Europe and elsewhere poses a number of specific challenges. Among these, the burden posed by mental and neurological conditions on older citizens has a significant impact on their working capacity, quality of life and that of their care givers, and interacts with the course and treatment of comorbidities which are frequently associated with old age.

Although some mental disorders like depression, anxiety, insomnia, dementia, personality disorders and substance use-related disorders are not limited only to older people and may have their origins in events experienced earlier in the lifespan, they are often present in clinical forms specific to older people, and may require adapted therapeutic approaches. In addition, non-age-specific mental illnesses may complicate or contribute to other, more specific age-related chronic disorders. The prevalence of these disorders is high and increasing, and difficulties in their treatment are compounded by the underrepresentation or even exclusion of older persons from many clinical trials in the field of psychiatry.

Scope: Proposals should include multi-disciplinary research to improve the understanding, prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of, mental conditions and disorders of older people. This may include a dimension of research into physical, psychological, environmental and social determinants of healthy ageing.

Proposals may address the role of external or internal determinants of mental health, including e.g. behaviour, resilience, sensory deficits, chronic disease, substance use, socio-economic stressors (e.g. loneliness, poverty, violence, trauma and conflicts), or other physical and environmental stressors. Clinical trials or comparative effectiveness research should contribute to the establishment of integrated preventative or therapeutic intervention strategies to improve mental health in the older population. Preference will be given to interventions with high public health relevance, i.e. addressing particularly frequent or severe situations, with a high impact on the quality of life of the individual and/or associated with a significant socio-economic burden.

Issues of particular relevance for the target populations, such as self-medication, poly-pharmacy and compliance, and gender specificities should also be taken into account.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 4 and 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:

  • Improved therapeutic management of older patients affected by mental conditions and disorders.
  • Maintenance of cognitive abilities of older people
  • Establishment of preventative strategies favouring the mental dimension of healthy ageing.
  • Reduction of the negative impact of mental disorders on comorbidities.

Type of action:Research and innovation actions