Nearly half of UK adults aged over 55 say they have experienced depression, according to a YouGov survey carried out for Age UK, highlighting the scale of the mental health challenge facing this age group.

The research also revealed that 7.3 million falling in this age range have suffered with anxiety, while one in five of those who reported suffering from anxiety or depression said symptoms had worsened with age.

Death of loved ones (36 percent), personal ill health (24 percent) and financial worries (27 percent) were cited most often as triggers for mental health problems, but the research also showed that more than a third (35 percent) did not know where to go for help and support.

NHS England has now published new guidelines to help GPs better identify the signs of anxiety and depression as well as a range of mental health problems, including those which specifically affect older people.

“Depression and anxiety affect nearly eight million people over 55, but can often go unnoticed and untreated,” commented Alistair Burns, national clinical director for Dementia, NHS England.

“Older people mustn’t miss out on help and treatment because of a ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to dealing with problems, or because they aren’t offered or don’t know where to go for help. GPs are the first port of call for many older people, so we are equipping doctors and their teams to better spot and tackle mental ill health in older adults.”

"Older people are potentially vulnerable and we have to be careful that we don't normalise depression and anxiety as a routine part of ageing,” noted RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.

"It is essential that we strive to give mental health the same parity of esteem that physical health problems have – in the NHS and throughout society - and in doing so reduce some of the unfortunate, and unwarranted, stigma that some patients face.”