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Researchers saw no increase in their depression and anxiety during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. And they said these seniors showed resilience to the stress of physical distancing and isolation.
"We thought they would be more vulnerable to the stress of COVID because they are, by [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] definition, the most vulnerable population," said study co-author Dr. Helen Lavretsky, professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The researchers, from UCLA and four other universities, interviewed people older than 60, average age 69, during the first two months of the pandemic. Participants lived in Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and were enrolled in studies of treatment-resistant depression. The study was funded by the University of Pittsburgh.
In general, participants were more concerned about the risk of contracting the coronavirus than the risks of isolation. Also, while all maintained physical distance, most didn't feel socially isolated and were using virtual technology to keep in touch with friends and family.
Still, many participants said their quality of life was lower, and that they worried their mental health will suffer with continued physical distancing. Some said they were unhappy with the government response to the pandemic.
The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Further research is needed to determine how the pandemic affects seniors over time, said Lavretsky, who added that the findings could help others coping with the pandemic.
-- Robert Preidt
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