Covid-19 pandemic resulted in increased loneliness and depression in older people

One in 20 adults over 60 have lost a family member or friend due to Covid, study found
Covid-19 pandemic resulted in increased loneliness and depression in older people

Some 4,000 people took part in Tilda study, which found the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on older people. Picture: PA

Loneliness, depression, delayed access to medical care and the loss of a loved one are among the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country's older population.

Researchers working on the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) have detailed the effects of the pandemic and the associated restrictions, based on data from more than 4,000 study participants aged 60 or over.

It highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the lives of older people and their mental and physical wellbeing.

The prevalence of Covid-19 among participants was 5%, and was three times higher among adults aged 60-to-69 years compared to those over 70. It also found that between July and November last year, one in 20 (5%) adults aged 60 and over had lost a family member or friend due to coronavirus.

Compliance with Government public health advice was high among participants, with 80% of the over-60s reporting adherence to advice on social distancing measures and engaging in protective behaviours, while 62% of participants reported not travelling to visit family members and 80% not visiting friends at all since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Those measures did not mitigate against some of the other effects of the pandemic, however. Almost-one quarter (22%) of older people did not meet minimum recommended levels of physical activity during the pandemic, although 27% said they walked more often than they had prior to the pandemic and 17% also exercised more often at home than they did previously.

Almost a third (30%) of older adults felt lonely at least some of the time and 21% of adults aged 60 and over reported potentially clinically meaningful levels of depressive symptoms.

"Worryingly, this is double the prevalence of depression seen before the pandemic," the report said. 

In addition, 29% of respondents reported high stress levels and 11% had moderate-to-severe anxiety levels, another significant increase from before the pandemic.

In addition, almost one third (30%) of adults aged 60 and over delayed or did not get medical care they needed, including dental and GP appointments.

Those most concerned about the pandemic live alone, are aged 70 and over, are female and are more likely to live in rural areas. Many are also carers for a family member.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, principal investigator at Tilda said: 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, we have known that this unprecedented crisis has disproportionately impacted upon the health, circumstances and wellbeing of older adults across the world. 

"Tilda’s report gives a thorough and accurate account of the scale of this impact on older adults living in Ireland to support Government and health authorities to see and address the negative impacts of the crisis."

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