Understanding Psychological Distress and Protective Factors Amongst Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

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Objectives: This study examined the emotional distress and loneliness during COVID-19 and the roles of resiliency and activities. Design: A cross-sectional national survey. Setting: Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk) and Prolific Research Platforms. Participants: Five hundred and one U.S. dwelling English-speaking adults 60 years old and older. Measurements: Participants completed an online survey with the PHQ-9; GAD-7; Short Health Anxiety Inventory; 3-item UCLA Loneliness scale; PROMIS measures of global health, instrumental, and emotional support; 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale; and COVID-19 needs assessment. Results: Across the sample 13% reported moderate depressive symptoms, 9% reported moderate anxiety symptoms, and 26% endorsed being “lonely.” The emotionally distressed group endorsed more loneliness, lower resiliency, less physical exercise, and worse physical health. The low Socio-Economic Status group endorsed less loneliness, less likely to engage in physical exercise and worse physical health.The lonely group endorsed less resilience, less physical exercise, and worse physical health. A multiple logistic regression found that resilience, socioeconomic status, and physical health were significant predictors of loneliness, whereas global health was the best predictor of emotional distress. Conclusions: Even after prolonged social distancing, older adults in this study did not report greater psychological distress compared to earlier studies of older adults during COVID-19. Older adults with lower SES, worse physical health, and less resiliency, were more likely to report more loneliness. It is this group that should be the focus of intervention.


Aging; COVID; Resiliency; Social isolation


Geriatrics | Psychiatry



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