40% of cocooners reported negative impacts on mental health

But most older people still believe restrictions were right course of action as pandemic spread
40% of cocooners reported negative impacts on mental health

One-in-six older people who were unwell did not seek medical help while cocooning with half of them saying it was a fear of contracting Covid-19.

Cocooning has had a negative physical and mental impact on those undertaking it — but most older people still believe the restrictions were the right course of action as the pandemic spread.

A new study by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital found that almost 40% of participants reported that their mental health was worse or much worse since the start of cocooning and that more than 57% of participants reported loneliness at least some of the time. It found that one-in-eight people were lonely ‘very often’ and those living alone were almost twice as likely to report loneliness.

More than 40% of participants reported a decline in their physical health since cocooning and a fifth reported not leaving their house at all since being advised to stay inside.

Almost one-sixth of participants said they did not seek medical attention for an illness while in the cocooning phase, when they otherwise would have done so, and half of those who did not seek medical attention said this was because they were afraid of catching Covid-19.

However, despite the challenges — and the fact that more than 40% of those surveyed did not even like the term 'cocooning' — more than 60% of participants said they agreed with the government advice about restricting their movements.

Dr Laura Bailey, specialist registrar in geriatric medicine, St James’s Hospital, Dublin and first author of the study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine, said: “It is a particular worry that one-in-six older people who were acutely unwell did not seek medical attention, often for fear of contracting Covid-19."

Her colleague, Robert Briggs, medical gerontology, Trinity College and consultant geriatrician, St James’s Hospital, Dublin and senior author of the study, said: "Given the possibility of further waves of Covid-19, with the likelihood of ongoing restrictions despite the rollout of vaccines, clear policies and advice for older people around strategies to maintain social engagement, manage loneliness, and continue physical activity should be a priority.’’ 

Meanwhile, an interim report on 'Impact of “cocooning” measures on older people adopted March 2020 in response to Covid-19 pandemic', carried out by the HSE and partners, has said that: "One of the potentially most damaging aspects of language used in reference to ‘cocooning’ measures was the narrative that emerged reflecting ‘all’ people aged over 70 as a vulnerable group."

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