Three out of four older people in the UK believe it is better to talk about a mental health problem than to tackle it by taking medication, new BACP research has found.

Our Public Perception Survey reveals that 71% of people aged 55-64 and 78% aged 65 and over would rather speak to someone about their mental health than take medication.

The figures are released today on the UN’s International Day of Older Persons, which this year has the theme of Journey to Age Equality.

Jeremy Bacon, our Older People Lead, says the figures suggest that older people are increasingly wanting access to life-changing therapy.


Jeremy said: “We know from studies that older people who go to their GP with symptoms of common mental health problems are more likely to be prescribed medication and less likely to be offered a choice of talking therapies.

“The journey to age equality must include acceptance that depression and low mood are not inevitable part of ageing, and BACP believes counselling offers great opportunity and benefits in later life.”

Our survey also found that 89% of 55 to 64-year-olds and 87% of over-65s believe it is a good idea to seek counselling or psychotherapy for a problem before it gets out of hand.

The survey, which was carried out by YouGov, also found that 90% of people aged 55-64 and 88% of 65s and over feel it is important that counselling or psychotherapy should be accessible to everyone who wants it.

“One of the reasons cited by GPs for this apparent reluctance to recommend counselling to older patients includes the belief that therapy isn’t wanted,” said Jeremy. “However, our survey shows the opposite to be true.

“Older people are telling us that they want access to talking therapies. And our members tell us that counselling offers older clients an opportunity to reflect on their lives, to address unresolved issues and allow them to move on to new and unexpected beginnings.”


The UN’s International Day of Older Persons has a number of objectives including to reflect on best practice, lessons and progress on the journey to ending older age inequality and changing negative narratives and stereotypes involving “older age”.

Jeremy added: “Counselling changes lives and age should not be a barrier to receiving treatment and support whenever it is needed.

“Mental health and emotional well-being are as important in later life as at any other time of life.”

Visit the Find a Therapist section of our website to find a BACP-registered counsellor or psychotherapist near you.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 5,731 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between March 4 and 14, 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 16+).