How a pandemic affects the experience of aging adults

Dal researcher co-leads national study

- April 28, 2020

Sitting on a bench. (Creative Commons photo)
Sitting on a bench. (Creative Commons photo)

How does a pandemic affect the physical and psychological health of adults as they age? Does COVID-19 have an impact on the delivery of regular health-care services? Does a COVID-19 infection lead to long-term health problems affecting the lungs or the brain?

These are just a few of the questions a new study being launched this week hopes to answer. The collaborative research project, conducted in partnership with 11 institutions across the country, including Dalhousie University, will examine the experiences of older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring how they cope, the impacts on their physical and mental health, and changes to how they access health-care services.

Over the next six months, the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) COVID-19 study will collect weekly and monthly data from its participants through online and telephone surveys to gain a comprehensive picture of the spread and impact of the pandemic. In addition to data on symptoms, health and well-being, the study will also gather information on health behaviours, such as social distancing and handwashing, workplace and economic impacts, as well as travel history.

“The opportunity to collect timely data on Nova Scotians and Canadians during this unprecedented pandemic will not only be useful to inform ongoing public health and social initiatives, but will provide a wealth of data to inform future directions including long term health, economic, and social impacts on individuals and the health care system,” says Dr. Susan Kirkland, professor and head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie.

Better understanding risk factors

The CLSA is a national research platform on health and aging involving more than 50,000 participants across 10 provinces. The study is led by principal investigator Parminder Raina of McMaster University. Dr. Kirkland is a co-principal investigator, along with Christina Wolfson of McGill University, and there is a national team of researchers involved. It is a major strategic initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Funding for the platform has been provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

“The CLSA provides a unique opportunity to understand the risk factors for COVID-19 and the impacts of public health practices to reduce its spread in the population,” says Dr. Kirkland. “We are grateful to CLSA study participants who are providing data to make a rapid response to this unprecedented pandemic possible.”

The CLSA COVID-19 study is supported by funding provided by the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA), McMaster University and Juravinski Research Institute; additional support has been provided by several provinces, affiliated universities and research institutions across Canada.


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