Mental health and emergency care for people aged over 65 years


For our local population of people aged over 65 years, we aim first, to describe how a person’s mental health may contribute to seeking emergency care; and second, how the experience of being a patient in the emergency department may impact on a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. Finally, to use these findings to inform an improved, person-centred model of emergency care.

Did you know?

People aged over 65 years experience emergency care more commonly than younger populations. They have specific and distinct health needs that are not always recognised or well understood.

It is common for people coming to the emergency department to have mental health problems, but these might not be assessed or disclosed. Older people might have atypical mental health symptoms. Emergency departments are loud, busy and often chaotic and might make people feel more distressed.

Overall, we have insufficient evidence about how to understand and care well for older people with mental health problems presenting to the emergency department. In addition to understanding this from the perspective of patients, we also need to know about how healthcare professionals working in a busy and time-pressured environment recognise and address the mental health of patients in their care.

About the research

This research project uses a multiple-methods approach with three separate, but interlinked sub-studies:

  • Study one: Uses data from a national cohort of older people, the Monash University ASPREE / ALSOP cohort, to identify the associations between common mental disorders and frequency of emergency care.
  • Study two: A retrospective cohort study using health and administrative data from Peninsula Health to determine the local prevalence of common mental disorders among the patients seen in the emergency department.
  • Study three: Uses semi-structured interviews with Peninsula Health patients and staff to explore how a person’s mental health may influence their presentation to the emergency department, how their experience of emergency care may affect their psychological and emotional well-being and how we may be better able to support people during their emergency care.

This project will ensure that the older population on the Peninsula receive holistic emergency care that addresses not just their physical wellbeing but also their psychological and emotional needs.


Dr Rosamond Dwyer provides an overview of
"Mental health and emergency care for people aged over 65 years".

Research Lead - Dr Rosamond Dwyer (Peninsula Health)

Rosamond Dwyer 160x198Dr Dwyer is a specialist Emergency Physician at Peninsula Health and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University. She is the Director of Research for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Peninsula Health and currently serves on the Peninsula Health Human Research Ethics Committee.

Project team