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Media opportunity: Pandemic depression persists especially among adults who are lonely, according to study that finds four in 10 adults aged 50+ experienced significant, worsening mental health issues during COVID‑19

Posted by Communications and Marketing on November 25, 2021 in News

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of older people, with those who are lonely faring far worse, according to a new study by a team of Canadian researchers including Dr. Susan Kirkland from Dalhousie University. 

Using data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), they found that 43 per cent of adults aged 50 or older experienced moderate or high levels of depressive symptoms in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic that increased over time. 

Loneliness was the most significant predictor of worsening depressive symptoms, while other pandemic-related stressors, such as family conflict, also increased the odds.

The study was published today (Nov. 25) in the journal Nature Aging

Dr. Kirkland, a Dalhousie research professor and head of the university’s Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, led the study with colleagues at McMaster and McGill universities. They examined how health-related factors and social determinants, such as income and social participation, affected the prevalence of depressive symptoms during the initial lockdown in March 2020 and after re-opening following the first wave of COVID-19 in Canada.  

 The team, using data from repeated telephone and web surveys, found that older adults had twice the odds of depressive symptoms during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic, with groups of people who were already marginalized or socially isolated experiencing a far greater negative impact. Women in particular were more likely to have higher odds of depressive symptoms during the pandemic compared to men.  

The findings mark the first published COVID-19 research emerging from the CLSA, a national research platform on aging involving more than 50,000 community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults at recruitment. The platform is funded by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Dr. Kirkland is available to discuss these unique findings and how the pandemic’s negative mental health impacts persist and may worsen over time, underscoring the need for tailored interventions to address pandemic stressors and alleviate their impact on the mental health of older adults.


Media contact:
Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services
Dalhousie University
Cell: 1-902-220-0491


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