Mental Health in Older Adults with IBD

People over the age of 60 make up 10% to 15% of IBD diagnoses, and this number is rising. In fact, seniors (aged 65 and over) with Crohn’s or colitis are the fastest growing group of Canadians with IBD.

Impact of IBD on depression

Depression is common in older people with IBD, with almost 1 out 4 people reporting signs of major depression (clinical depression). 

Depression in older adults may be associated with having greater disease activity (flare-ups) and more severe disease, longer time since diagnosis, poor quality of life, and not following treatment plans from health care providers. Patients may not take their medications as prescribed because of negative medication side effects.

Certain IBD medications may also have a negative impact on mental health that are more pronounced in the in older than younger people with IBD. For example, depression is a common side effect in older people using corticosteroids (used to induce remission in IBD). 

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Other diseases and medications

Older people are also more likely to experience comorbidities and certain complications of IBD, which need to be taken into account when considering the emotional impact of IBD. Conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are typically more prevalent in older people than in younger people with IBD. 

It is also common for older people to be taking multiple medications to manage their heath in addition to their IBD medication. Studies show that older people may be on five medications on average at once, and 25% regularly take more than six drugs. This is also referred to as 'polypharmacy'.

For those prescribed medication for anxiety or depression, their health care provider will take into account drug interactions and how multiple medications can impact the likelihood of a patient sticking to the treatment plan.

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Additional resources

Watch the video below to learn from an expert about Living with IBD in Older Adulthood. In this video you will learn about how aging can impact treatment, nutrition, symptom management and complications of IBD.


Dr. Noelle Rohatinsky (RN, PhD) is an Associate Professor and Registered Nurse at the University of Saskatchewan. Noelle received the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Ross McMaster National Unsung Hero Award, and a 2018 Canadian Institute of Health Research Seed Grant from the University of Saskatchewan to investigate quality of life in older adults living with inflammatory bowel disease. 

For more information about the impact of IBD in older adults, check out our 2018 Impact of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Canada report.

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