Migration and mental health

Foreign employment over the last decade has greatly improved the socio-economic lifestyle of the Nepali people. International migration pumped more than Rs 784 billion in 2018/2019 into the local economy. While largely accepted as being positive for our economy, one cannot ignore the cons of it. Parents are abandoned when their children move out of the country, and the elderly face an uphill battle with mental health. The question is no longer if one should move out of the country for a job but if one should even apply for one.

The average life expectancy is on the rise, which, in turn, means that the number of old people in our society is increasing. Currently, there are 2.1 million elderly, and they face high probability of contracting either a physical or mental disorder. This phase of life requires more family support to back them up.

Overwhelmingly, the vast majority of this body with migrant children faces problems, such as insomnia, stress, anxiety and loneliness, which ultimately lead to severe depression, substance abuse and psychotic disorder for many.

A significant number of physical problems seen in the elderly people are also the result of psychosomatic problems, a condition caused by inner conflict or stress.

Humans are fundamentally a collective society. We depend on one another to survive and thrive while doing our part. Inevitably, as one gets old, one’s physical abilities degrade and also the ability to interact. Unable to keep up with the pace of their younger counterparts, or just unable to be as outgoing as they once were, social activities drop, and the elderly rely on their family to give them the attention that they are currently unable to receive.

But it is becoming highly improbable for families to stay in touch the same way the generation before them did.

With their children and their grandchildren missing from the living room or the kitchen, loneliness is widely prevalent among such families. Loneliness has shown to weaken the immune system needed to ward off infectious diseases. Growth in the elderly sector means an increase in age-related diseases, such as atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, it’s time to scrutinise the psychological problems faced by the elderly population living alone at home.