Covid-19 increased feeling of loneliness among older adults, show poll

A recent poll has found that staying home and avoiding crowded places helped people reduce their risk of COVID-19 but came with a cost. It increased the feeling of loneliness in people, especially older adults.

Written by September 15, 2020 22:27
Will lockdown loneliness make humans loners?

Will lockdown loneliness make humans loners?

New Delhi: The outbreak of Covid-19 turned homes into offices and market places into desolate places. Initially welcomed by many office-goers as it gave them to work while being at home but months later, people are fed up of restricting themselves inside their homes.

A recent poll has found that staying home and avoiding crowded places helped people reduce their risk of COVID-19 but came with a cost. It increased the feeling of loneliness in people, especially older adults.

Nearly half of those polled in June 2020 said they felt more isolated than they had just before the pandemic hit United States while others felt less companionship than before. Social contacts suffered too, with 46 per cent of older adults reporting in June that they infrequently interacted with friends, neighbours or family outside their household.

The poll points to some bright spots, too. Technology helped many people over 50 connect with others, including the 59 per cent who reported using social media at least once a week, and the 31% who used video chat at least once a week.

Will lockdown loneliness make humans loners?

“As the pandemic continues, it will be critical to pay attention to how well we as a society support the social and emotional needs of older adults,” says John Piette, Ph.D., a professor at the U-M School of Public Health who worked with the poll team.

“The intersection of loneliness and health still needs many studies, but even as we gather new evidence, all of us can take time to reach out to older neighbours, friends and relatives in safe ways as they try to avoid the coronavirus.”

“The change we see in these measures in less than two years is truly remarkable,” says Preeti Malani, M.D., the U-M Medical School professor who directs the poll and has training in geriatrics and infectious diseases.

“The use of technology to bridge the gap, and the importance of keeping up healthy routines like exercise, sleep, a balanced diet and getting outside, will no doubt continue to be important in the months ahead.”

The poll also found that half of those who live alone, and just over half (52 per cent) of those who are unemployed or disabled, said they felt a lack of companionship, compared with 39 per cent of those who live with others, work or are retired.

Will lockdown loneliness make humans loners?

“Past studies have shown that prolonged isolation has a profound negative effect on health and wellbeing — as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. “It’s not surprising that older adults reported more loneliness since the pandemic began, particularly those who live alone. We need to continue finding ways to connect and engage with one another throughout this public health crisis.”

The National Poll on Healthy Aging results is based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,074 adults aged 50 to 80 who answered a wide range of questions online. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them.