Mental Illness and Addictions: The Issue

Substance use, mental health and gambling problems in older adults can have a variety of causes, including:

  • problems in a person’s life situation (e.g., stress, poverty, or poor nutrition or housing)
  • emotional l problems (e.g., abuse or grief)
  • physical problems (e.g., stroke or other illness).

An older person may have struggled with an addiction or mental health challenge for many years, or the challenge may have begun more recently.

This document describes substance use, mental health and gambling problems and how they affect older adults. It looks at the causes and signs of these problems. It also offers tips for talking with the older person and to know when and where to get help.

Remember that mental health and addiction problems can range from mild to severe. Even a mild problem can affect an older person’s quality of life.

Having one problem can also lead to others. For example, someone with depression may use alcohol as a way to help cope with the depression. Often these problems overlap and are linked.

Responding to Older Adults with Substance Use, Mental Health and Gambling Issues, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Retrieved March 2009 from Center for Addiction and Mental Illness


href="Root/Materials/Adobe Acrobat Materials/SMH_and_Addiction_issues.pdf">Seniors Mental Health and Addiction Issues

McCready, J., Mann, R., Zhao, J., Eves, R. Correlates of gambling-related problems among older adults in Ontario. Journal of Gambling Issues: Issue 22, December 2008

Culture Counts: Best Practices in Community Education in Mental Health and Addiction with Ethnoracial/Ethnocultural Communities (2004) Centre for Addictions and Mental Health

Best Practices – Treatment and Rehabilitation for Seniors with Substance Abuse Problems