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Changes in well-being among socially isolated older people during the COVID-19 pandemic: An outcome-wide analysis

Kung, Claryn SJ; Steptoe, Andrew; (2024) Changes in well-being among socially isolated older people during the COVID-19 pandemic: An outcome-wide analysis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) , 121 (18) , Article e2308697121. 10.1073/pnas.2308697121. Green open access

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Abstract

Older adults experienced major changes during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions, and it might be expected that those who were already socially isolated before the pandemic were particularly vulnerable. We apply an outcome-wide longitudinal design on 4,636 participants (mean age 66.8 y) from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, observed in 2018/19 and early (June/July 2020) and later (November/December 2020) in the pandemic. Social isolation is defined using an index including marital status, social contact, and social participation in 2018/19. Using mixed models, we compare changes in well-being, health, health behaviors, financial well-being, and Internet use, between isolated and nonisolated participants. From before to during the pandemic, isolated participants (29%) experienced smaller declines in life satisfaction and quality of life and a smaller increase in loneliness. They showed greater declines in smoking and physical activity and were more likely to remain worried about their future financial situation. They also did not change in their likelihood of regular Internet use, contrasting with nonisolated participants who increased in this regard. The groups followed a similar trend for general health and sleep quality (no change), depression and anxiety (increase), and expectations of future financial difficulties (decrease). Although isolated older adults generally show poorer outcomes than their socially connected counterparts, they were somewhat protected during the pandemic on some fronts. Our findings highlight the need to continually care for isolated older adults but also to be attentive in times of unexpected crises to those experiencing extreme changes related to necessary policy responses.

Type: Article
Title: Changes in well-being among socially isolated older people during the COVID-19 pandemic: An outcome-wide analysis
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2308697121
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2308697121
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third-party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Health behaviors, internet use, life satisfaction, loneliness, mental health
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10191758
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