Mood and activity changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in rural and urban Veterans and their cohabitants

Clin Gerontol. 2023 Jan-Dec;46(5):759-766. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2022.2130123. Epub 2022 Oct 8.


Objectives: We aimed to examine the impact of COVID-19 pandemic-related stay-at-home orders on weekly reports of mood and activity before and during COVID-19 in a sample of older Veterans and their cohabitants.

Methods: Urban and rural Veterans and their cohabitants living in the Pacific Northwest ≥62 years old were enrolled as part of the Collaborative Aging Research Using Technology initiative (n = 100, age = 71.2 ± 6.5, 41% women). Participants reported frequency of social activities (e.g., travel away), physical illness, and mood (blue mood and loneliness) via weekly online health forms.

Results: A total of 2,441 weekly online health forms (OHFs) were collected from 100 participants. During the COVID-19 pandemic, blue mood (OR = 4.4, p < .0001) and loneliness (OR = 7.2, p < .0001) were significantly higher than before the pandemic, and travel away from home was significantly lower (OR = 0.5, p < .0001). Prevalence of blue mood and loneliness were not associated with rurality.

Conclusions: The current study established that blue mood and loneliness were significantly more prevalent in older Veterans following COVID-19 stay-at-home orders regardless of rurality.

Clinical implications: The COVID-19 pandemic associated health precautions, while necessary to curb acute health risks, have created a unique situation that places vulnerable populations at increased risk of low mood.

Keywords: COVID-19; Depression; military personnel; remote monitoring; rural; social isolation.