COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on the mental health of older adults

According to McMaster University research, the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the mental health of older persons living in the community. People who are lonely are more vulnerable to the disease.

A national group of researchers used data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging to find that 43% of the population over 50 had depression symptoms at the time of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number has increased over time.

Loneliness was the most significant predictor of a rise in depressive symptoms, with other stressors related to the pandemic, like family conflict, also increasing the odds.

The study was published today in the journal Nature Aging.

The research was conducted by Parminder Raina, a professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact and the director of science at the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant effect on older adults. People who were already marginalized experienced more of a negative impact.

Parminder Raina is the chief investigator for the CLSA

“Those who were socially isolated, had poorer health, and were of lower socioeconomic status were more likely have worsening depression than those with pre-pandemic depression status. This was part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

The research team comprised CLSA principal investigators Christina Wolfson of McGill University, Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University, Lauren Griffith of McMaster as well as a national group of investigators.

They utilized telephone and web survey data to determine the ways in which health-related factors, as well as social determinants, such as income and social participation, affected the frequency of depression symptoms during the initial lockdown starting March 2020, and then after re-opening following the first wave of COVID-19 in Canada.

Conflict with family members, separation from the family, with the family and loneliness were all associated with an increased risk of developing mild or severe depression symptoms that grew more severe over time.

Women were also more likely to suffer greater risk of developing depression symptoms during the pandemic as compared to males, and a larger number of women reported being separated from their families, a longer time spent caring for their children, and obstacles to caring.

Overall, older adults had twice the risk of depression symptoms during the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic. However those with lower incomes and poorer health suffered more adverse impact due to preexisting conditions or health issues reported during the pandemic.

“These findings suggest the negative mental health consequences of the pandemic persist and could worsen in time, and highlight the need for tailored interventions to address pandemic stressors and reduce their effects on the mental health of older adults.” Raina added.

These findings are the first COVID-19 research published by the CLSA, a national platform for research on aging that includes more than 50,000 community-dwelling adults and those over 50 years old. The platform is funded by the Government of Canada through and Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Journal reference:

Raina, P., et al. (2021) A longitudinal analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of middle-aged and older adults from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Nature Aging.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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