Adults aged 52 and over are more likely to develop mental health problems and financial difficulties after Covid infection.
University College London researchers have found that older adults are twice as likely to develop mental health conditions such as depression and fall onto financial difficulties after Covid infection. They used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to examine the short- and long-term impact of Covid infections on the mental health and financial standings of older adults aged between 52 and 74.
The study is published in PNAS.
Connecting Covid infections with mental health problems
The researchers accounted for sociodemographic characteristics, health-related factors and pre-pandemic data and found surprising results about the effects of Covid infections.
They found that between June and July 2020, 49% of the participants with a probable Covid infection had clinically significant depressive symptoms, compared to 22% of those without a Covid infection. Furthermore, 12% of participants identified as having anxiety, compared to 6% without the infection.
The effects lasted up to six months from the initial infection, and the researchers noted that they appeared to worsen. In a follow-up, depression and anxiety levels increased to 72% and 13%, compared to 33% and 7% without a probable infection. This data supports statements that mental health worsened during the Covid pandemic.
More people faced financial difficulties following infection
The researchers also found that around 40% of older people with a probable infection faced more financial hardships in June and July 2020 than before the pandemic, compared to 20% without an infection. Loneliness was twice as higher in older people with probable infection than in those without Covid. Positively, financial worries eased by November 2020.
Lead author, Dr Ellie Iob (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health), said: “There is currently little evidence on the impact that contracting Covid-19 infection may have on an individual’s mental health, personal finances, and social relationships.
“However, our study shows that older adults with probable Covid-19 infection experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety, poorer quality of life, elevated feelings of loneliness, and greater financial difficulties compared with those without probable infection. This was evident both in the acute phase of the infection and up to six months later.
“These results suggest that the adverse psychosocial impact of Covid-19 infection is long-lasting and more broadly present across the population.
“We encourage anyone who may be experiencing issues with their mental health or wellbeing to speak to their GP.”
The researchers noted that a probable Covid infection was based on self-reported symptoms and not confirmed by a laboratory test.