A longitudinal analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of middle-aged and older adults from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

Nat Aging. 2021 Dec;1(12):1137-1147. doi: 10.1038/s43587-021-00128-1. Epub 2021 Nov 25.

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, with over 233 million confirmed cases and over 4.6 million deaths globally as of September 20211. Although many studies have reported worse mental health outcomes during the early weeks of the pandemic, some sources suggest a gradual decrease in anxiety and depressive symptoms during the lockdown2. It remains to be explained whether mental health continued to deteriorate during the initial lockdown or whether there were signs of stabilization or improvement in the mental health of community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults. Our results showed that adults had twice the odds of depressive symptoms during the pandemic compared with the prepandemic period, with subgroups characterized by lower socioeconomic status and poor health-related factors experiencing a greater impact. Over 43% of adults showed a pattern of moderate or clinically high levels of depressive symptoms at baseline that increased over time. Loneliness and COVID-19 stressors were predictors of worsening depressive symptom trajectories. The disparities and patterns in the depressive symptom trajectories suggest that the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic persist and may worsen over time. Interventions that address the pandemic stressors and alleviate their impact on the mental health of adults are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics