Life stages


Adulthood is a time of major life transitions and increasing responsibility (Cattan and Tilford, 2006). This stage in life for many is synonymous with having and bringing up children, negotiating relationships, possibly caring for older family members, economic productivity and work security/ insecurity, transitions and life events, changing family structures and as one moves through the years possibly caring for grandchildren and preparing for retirement. Although many of these life transitions can enhance mental health and wellbeing, they can also pose many challenges (Ibid).

Although not confined to adulthood, major life events such as the death of a parent, illness and disability, loss of employment or workplace issues and the breakdown in relationships, occur more often at this life stage. In an Irish context, the impact of the recession and the ill-effects of the Celtic Tiger years are weighing heavily on this population group and continue to present significant pressures and stresses. Specifically, unemployment has had a huge negative impact on the wellbeing of the Irish population as a whole. A study of psychological wellbeing and unemployment in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland found that unemployed males suffered from increased anxiety and increased mental health problems and unemployed females suffered from a loss of self-esteem (Breslin and Breslin, 2013). The economic crisis is expected to produce secondary mental health effects that may increase suicide and alcohol death rates (Healthy Ireland- a Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013 – 2025).

It is estimated that one in four people will experience some mental health problems in their lifetime. The WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health stated that depressive mental illnesses will be the leading cause of disease in high income countries by 2030. Mental health conditions have significant human, social and economic costs. In terms of mortality, people with mental health conditions die 20 years younger than the general population. Research also indicates that those who experience mental health conditions suffer disproportionate rates of physical illness (DeHert M etal.2011). In terms of economic cost, mental health-associated issues cost Ireland some €3 billion in 2006 and that the majority of this was related to loss of economic output such as absenteeism, lost employment, lost productivity and premature retirement (O’Shea and Kennelly, 2008).

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