ANN ARBOR – As the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading across the US, two University of Michigan researchers realized the significant impact that the social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the virus would have on older adults.
In this episode of Michigan Minds, Lindsay Kobayashi, assistant professor at the School of Public Health and Jessica Finlay, postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Social Research, discuss the research project they launched to better understand how the pandemic and associated control practices are affecting older adults in the US. Kobayashi and Finlay hope that through the research project, The COVID-19 Coping Study: A Longitudinal, Online Survey of Older Americans’ Health and Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic, they will be able to identify strategies that could help older adults cope with current concerns and influence planning for the future.
“We hope the results will inform social distancing guidelines, as well as coping strategies and procedures, to help in future public health crises. We really don’t have much evidence yet for the wide reach and impact of this pandemic particularly on vulnerable older adults, so the sooner we can better understand its impacts the earlier we can intervene and support people,” says Finlay of the study, which has included about 2,500 participants so far.
The study’s authors have been able to make some preliminary observations about individual experiences.
“We’ve observed that about one in four people in the COVID-19 Coping Study screened positive for depression, and one in 10 screened positive for anxiety,” says Kobayashi, adding that they are planning follow-ups with study respondents to better understand the long-term effects and how people are coping years after the pandemic.
“Older people are particularly going to feel these losses rippling through their communities, so we hope to provide some empirical data on the effects of COVID-19 and the pandemic control strategies on mental health and well-being, and also bring to light some people’s experiences, stories, and strengths as they go through this difficult time,” Finlay says.
Learn more in this episode of the Michigan Minds podcast.