A new study conducted by researchers at Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa has linked coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-based loneliness in older adults with elevated psychiatric symptoms of anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms that immediately follow exposure to trauma.

The study focused on older adults who are at a greater risk of COVID-19 health complications and who likely remained in stricter self-isolation than other age groups due to this risk. The researchers found that the effect of loneliness on psychiatric symptoms was profound among participants who felt subjectively older than their chronological age. Further, participants who felt subjectively younger than their chronological age exhibited no psychiatric symptoms related to loneliness.

"The way older adults perceive old age and their own aging may be more important to their coping and wellbeing than their chronological age," said researcher Amit Shrira from the Gerontology Program at the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, in a press release.

The results further support the need to identify older adults at high risk for developing psychiatric symptoms due to COVID-19-related loneliness. Further, the results can guide future research and development of suitable interventions aimed at lowering the perception of age in order to mitigate the negative impact of loneliness and create a protective factor to prevent such a link.

Shrira noted that providing ongoing assistance and communication while adhering to relevant health guidelines can help relieve the emotional burden of isolation among the elderly. Further, having regular conversations with family members, volunteers, and strangers can prevent the onset of deeper loneliness and the sense that no one is willing to hear their struggles, according to the study.

COVID-19 loneliness linked to elevated psychiatric symptoms in older adults. Bar-Ilan University. https://www1.biu.ac.il/indexE.php?id=33&pt=20&pid=4&level=1&cPath=4&type=1&news=3490. Published June 9, 2020. Accessed June 10, 2020.