COVID-19 is more dangerous for the elderly. But what about shutting yourself down?

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Credit: Hannah Moore

At the beginning of the pandemic, when the Turkish government imposed strict house arrest orders for all residents aged 65 and over, Bilge Erten’s 70-year-old father began what for him was an endless house arrest. . Under the threat of severe financial sanctions, he remained at home for more than three months until the restrictions were lifted last June.

“He complained a lot about feeling rigid about inactivity,” says Erten, an assistant professor of economics and international affairs in the Northeast. “But I think the anxiety was the worst part. No one knew how long the closure would last and that uncertainty really added to the stress.”

Not surprisingly, forced isolation has negative effects on people’s minds , especially the elderly, many of whom are already suffering from loneliness. But Erten has more than a family anecdote to prove it. In her most recent article, she found that during Tukey closure, symptoms of anxiety and depression increased by 10 percent for those over 65 compared to slightly younger adults, who were exempt from closure.

“Symptoms we examined include somatic symptoms, such as having more frequent headaches, poor digestion, difficulty sleeping, as well as non-somatic symptoms such as feeling unhappy, crying more often than usual, having difficulty enjoying of daily activities and even having suicidal thoughts, ”Erten says.

To test whether the increase in self-reported mental health problems stemming from age-related blocking policies, Erten and his team surveyed 1909 individuals between the ages of 59 and 70 about their emotions and physical well-being.

About half were between 65 and 70 years old and therefore subject to home stay orders, while the other half, between 59 and 64 years old, were approaching the age of cutting but still they were allowed to leave the house. They found that the group aged 65 and over was getting worse.

It could be argued that additional factors in addition to blocking could also have contributed to the decline in the mental health of the population aged 65 and over. To account for these possible stressors, Erten considered whether inability to work and subsequent loss of income was a major issue and whether intra-family conflicts were exacerbated by constant interactions at home.

Neither scenario proved to be especially common among the population aged 65 and over, most of whom are already retired and generally less susceptible to domestic violence than younger populations, Erten says.

Given these factors, Erten argues that the decline in mental health between the ages of 65 and over during the confinement in Turkey was, more than anything, the result of government-implemented policies and subsequent social isolation.

“In economics, there’s a saying: there’s no free lunch,” Erten says. “Here, I say, there is no free policy. There is no policy that has no side effects, and we need to be careful about what these unintended consequences are.”

In addition, Erten says his article is one of the studies, if not the first, that shows the causal relationship between social isolation and decreased mental health. “Most previous studies only document how mental health anxiety changes over time,” he says.

Erten recognizes that isolation is an important tactic to counteract infectious diseases. But his work questions whether reducing the possibility of contracting COVID-19 through isolation outweighs the weight of loneliness.

“In the future, if there is another pandemic, we need to consider the costs and benefits,” he says. “If the costs are as high as we show in this paper, maybe not. Also, we still don’t know the long-term effects this will have on people’s mental health.”

Erten plans to conduct a follow-up study to determine whether older people suffer from prolonged mental health consequences due to COVID-19 .

“Feelings of loneliness can increase cognitive decline. Our long-term goal is to examine the effects of home orders over a two- to three-year period,” he says. “Mental health outcomes are not being taken seriously at the moment and we need more research to assess the long-term costs and benefits for better policy design in future pandemics.”


Frequent use of the Internet by the elderly during the blockade related to mental health benefits


More information:
Blocking costs for mental health: evidence of age-specific curfews in Turkey. www.iza.org/publications/dp/14 … ic-curfews-in-turkey

Citation: COVID-19 is more dangerous for the elderly. But what about shutting yourself down? (2021, June 3), retrieved June 3, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-covid-dangerous-older-people.html

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