Malnutrition affects several people and leads to serious health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, muscle wasting, obesity, and immunocompromised states. Overconsumption of certain nutrients, such as calories, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, leads to over-nutrition, while undernutrition occurs due to inadequate consumption of proteins, calories, or other macro-nutrients. Malnutrition is common among the elderly, especially with a high risk of comorbidities (Kwak & Kim, 2018). Malnutrition in elderly patients with mental health problems is a leading cause of morbidity, disability, and mortality.
Mental conditions such as depression influence a mental patient’s appetite and food intake. Poor nutritional intake leads to weight loss and increases the risk of malnutrition. In diagnosing mental disorders, weight gain and weight loss are among the diagnostic criteria for conditions such as depression. In contrast, malnutrition is closely associated with mental illnesses since micronutrient deficiencies, such as folic acid, thiamine, or cobalamin deficiency, can have adverse mental effects (Kwak & Kim, 2018; Wei et al., 2018). Little research has delved into the relationship between malnutrition and mental health conditions among community-living elderly individuals; thus, Kvamme et al. (2011) focused on the topic. The researcher assessed the association between depression and anxiety disorders and the risk of malnutrition besides the body mass index among elderly men and women in Tromso, Norway.
The researchers utilized a cross-sectional survey to study a large population sample of elderly individuals aged 65 to 87 years. It was essential to use a risk assessment tool to enhance the validity and reliability of the data and research findings. Therefore, the researchers used the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) to determine the risk of malnutrition and measure mental health by the Symptoms Check List 10 (SCL-10). In addition, they categorized BMI into various classes (Kvamme et al., 2011). The study tools were accurate and increased the scientific basis of the findings.
The researchers conducted comprehensive analyses to assess the association between malnutrition and other factors such as alcohol use, socioeconomic status, or chronic somatic diseases, but there was no significant association. Consequently, the researchers strongly associated mental health symptoms with a risk of malnutrition among the elderly (Kvamme et al., 2011). Wei et al. (2018) also found that mental health conditions, especially mood disorders, such as depression or schizophrenia, affect the patient’s mood and desire to eat. Studies have linked impaired mental health as a risk factor for malnutrition among the elderly population living in the community (Kwak & Kim, 2018).
The association between mental health disorders and malnutrition also has a significant subthreshold for mental health symptoms. It is critical to note that depression is a common mental health condition linked to malnutrition among the elderly (Kvamme et al., 2011). Depression affects appetite, influences food intake, and reduces energy intake, which leads to significant weight loss and an increased risk of malnutrition (Wei et al., 2018). However, the study had some limitations since the researchers did not evaluate the possibility of eating disorders among the study subjects. The study also focused on depression and anxiety mental conditions only, and the researchers did not screen for cognitive decline that may affect older adults’ eating behavior.n conclusion, the influence of mental health conditions on nutrition among the elderly has received little attention. Most studies have focused on the impact of malnutrition on mental health rather than the impact of mental health disorders on nutrition. Therefore, the impact of various mental health conditions as a risk factor for malnutrition among the elderly requires extensive studies.
Kvamme, J. M., Grønli, O., Florholmen, J., & Jacobsen, B. K. (2011). Risk of malnutrition is associated with mental health symptoms in community-living elderly men and women: The Tromsø Study. BMC psychiatry, 11(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-11-112
Kwak, Y., & Kim, Y. (2018). Association between mental health and meal patterns among elderly Koreans. Geriatrics & Gerontology International, 18(1), 161-168. https://doi.org/10.1111/ggi.13106
Wei, J., Fan, L., Zhang, Y., Li, S., Partridge, J., Claytor, L., & Sulo, S. (2018). Association between malnutrition and depression among community-dwelling older Chinese adults. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, 30(2), 107-117. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1010539518760632