COVID-19 Pandemic: Older Adults and Their Communication Patterns
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted people of all ages, but older adults may have been affected the most. A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a study to explore how older adults communicated with their friends, family, and healthcare providers during the pandemic. The study also examined the correlation between various modes of communication and mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The data was collected from over 3,100 participants in the National Study of Health and Aging Trends who responded to a survey between June and October 2020.
The study found that in-person interactions were associated with fewer mental health problems. Older adults who met their friends, family, and healthcare providers in person reported lower levels of anxiety and depression related to the pandemic. On the other hand, people who used digital technologies like emails and video calls for communication reported more negative emotions. The researchers suggest that the digital technologies used might not have been suited to meet the needs of older adults, which could have resulted in mental health issues.
Rebecca Robbins, the assistant professor of medicine at HMS and an associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was the lead author of the study. She believes that more research is needed to design communication technologies that meet the needs of older adults. While digital technologies were initially thought to help ease the isolation caused by social distancing and pandemic restrictions, the study’s findings suggest otherwise. The use of digital tools, particularly by older adults, may lead to increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The public health measures needed to combat COVID-19 may have exacerbated the mental health risks among older adults.
The Road Ahead
The study’s findings highlight the need for more tailored communication technologies that meet the needs of older adults. As the pandemic continues, public health officials have to balance the physical health risks of COVID-19 with the mental health risks of social isolation among older adults. Researchers need to come up with new ways to design technologies and communication tools that help alleviate loneliness and depression among older adults. As Rebecca Robbins suggests, preparing for future pandemics requires addressing the communication needs of this vulnerable population.
As per information from the source.