Older adults are extra resilient to COVID-19-related nervousness and despair

Despite fears that older adults could face a mental health crisis in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic due to lockdown measures due to loneliness and isolation, several studies suggest that older adults may be more resilient to anxiety, depression, and stress than they are younger populations, the authors wrote in an opinion piece published in JAMA1.

Both studies in the United States and other high-income countries have shown that older adults are less likely to have negative mental health outcomes than younger adults. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in a group of 933 participants 65 and older, 6.2% reported anxiety disorders, 5.8% depressive disorders, and 9.2% trauma or stress-related disorders (TSRD), while a group of 731 participants aged 18 to 24 reported 49.1% anxiety disorders, 52.3% depressive disorders, and 46% TSRD2. A cross-sectional study in Spain found that older adults (aged 60 to 80 years) had fewer anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than adults aged 40 to 59 years3.

Older adults living in a community may be particularly resilient, possibly due to internal factors such as biological stress response and personality traits, as well as external resources such as social status and financial stability, according to the authors.

However, these studies show experience at the onset of the pandemic, and the long-term effects of COVID-19 may have mixed results. According to the CDC report, older adults who are members of under-represented minorities, have lower household incomes, or serve as unpaid caregivers are at higher risk of negative psychological consequences, the authors say. In certain circumstances, people may also have more mental health issues, especially as many older adults lack the material, social, or cognitive resources, including technology, friends, and exercise skills, to help them manage the stress.

The authors recommended physicians and caregivers solving problems with specific individuals and families to determine how to obtain the resources they need, including technologies that can facilitate social connections and access to mental health services. Manual therapy, physical activity, social attachment, compassion, and “appropriate responsiveness to spirituality” can also help manage chronic stress, anxiety, and persistent distress.

“Understand the factors and mechanisms that determine this resilience [of at least some older adults] can guide interventions for other older people and for other groups whose mental health may be more compromised – e.g. B. increasing components of wisdom such as emotional regulation, empathy and compassion. It would also be useful to consider how technology can be used for this purpose, ”the authors say.

“However, it is important to recognize that despite these seemingly positive early results, careful monitoring and additional research are needed to understand the mental and psychological impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the elderly population.”

Disclosure: Article authors declared fees from publications. For a full list of the authors’ information, see the original reference.


1. Vahia IV, Jeste DV, and Reynolds CF III. Older Adults and the Psychological Impact of COVID-19. JAMA. Published online on November 20, 2020. doi: 10.1001 / jama.2020.21753

2. Czeisler ME, Lane RI, Petrosky E. et al. Mental health, substance use, and thoughts of suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020; 69 (32): 1049- 1057. doi: 10.15585 / mmwr. mm6932a1

3. González-Sanguino C., Ausín B., Castellanos MA, et al. Psychological consequences in the initial phase of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in Spain. Brain Behav Immune. 2020; 87: 172-1. 176. doi: 10.1016 / j.bbi.2020.05.040

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

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