Older adults and the mental health effects of COVID-19


In addition to being challenging, the past two years have seen a lot of people lose close ones. The elderly and those with co-morbid conditions were most affected by the coronavirus outbreaks that swept through India and the rest of the world. The elderly experienced both physical and mental health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. In COVID-19, 57% of seniors aged 60 and above reported having mental health concerns, according to Antara’s “State of Seniors” poll.

The International Longevity Centre (ILC) India recently conducted a study on the availability of emotional and physical support among the elderly population over the age of 55. The results showed a significant rise in depression caused by survivor’s guilt and a corresponding struggle to overcome loneliness by participating in activities and forming support groups with peers going through similar situations.

Elderly people are being encouraged to self-quarantine and isolate themselves from others who may infect them in practically every country coping with the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to lower the danger of virus transmission, it is a standard practise in long-term care institutions to forbid visits from family members and friends. Although these limitations are acceptable in this time of crisis, they could have a serious detrimental effect on older individuals’ mental health, including social isolation and loneliness.

Seniors’ Fear of COVID-19 :

A increasing corpus of research demonstrates how social isolation harms people’s health and wellbeing. As more people had the terrible virus, were admitted to hospitals, and passed away as a result, fear was unavoidable.

With 66% of seniors reporting trauma, fear of infection was the most prevalent and significant factor causing an increase in mental health issues. As a result of their worry brought on by COVID-19 and their fear of infection, seniors suffered social isolation. Nowadays, it is commonly known that loneliness and social isolation among seniors pose serious public health and policy problems.

Seniors’ access to basic healthcare facilities, groceries, and prescriptions, among other things, was restricted in addition to worries about their safety. Seniors reported higher mental health issues like depression and anxiety related to their health during the second wave.

Studies, including our own, have found a link between social isolation and loneliness and poor physical and mental health, including higher blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, immune system dysfunction, depression, anxiety, impaired cognitive functioning, an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and mortality. The risk of dementia increasing by 50%, the chance of incident coronary heart disease increasing by 29%, and the risk of stroke increasing by 32% have all been associated with social isolation.

Seniors’ worries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:

In the post-pandemic era, staying healthy and avoiding serious illnesses are the top priorities for seniors. Most seniors choose to maintain a self-monitored balanced diet, however others turned to DIY solutions instead of consulting a doctor.

The pandemic disproportionately affected adults, who also experienced more serious complications, higher mortality, worries about disruptions to their daily schedules and access to care, trouble adjusting to new technologies like telemedicine, and worries that isolation would exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. There was fear about a mental health crisis among older persons given the scope and severity of the epidemic, despite the fact that older adults had lower stress reactivity and, generally speaking, greater emotional regulation and well-being than younger adults. Whereas interaction with friends, relatives, and carers had grown scarce, the concern was for elderly persons living at home and in residential care facilities. The preliminary data point to a much more nuanced picture indicating that, contrary to popular belief, older adults may be more resilient to the anxiety, depression, and stress-related mental health disorders that plague younger populations during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to Manage:

The health and wellbeing of senior citizens around the world will be significantly and permanently impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health outcomes of older persons are expected to be significantly impacted by social isolation and loneliness. A number of nations can apply certain tactics to deal with these problems. The development of creative technology-based interventions to mobilise resources from family members, community-based networks, and resources that address social isolation and loneliness in older adults is one of these strategies. Others include involving the health care system in the process of developing methods to identify social isolation and loneliness.

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