Impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of older adults
In this episode we talk to Professor Samuel Wong about his research into COVID-19 and its impact on loneliness and mental health in a cohort of older adults in Hong Kong. Professor Wong is a clinician with training in both Family Medicine and Public Health. He is the Director of the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Impact of COVID-19 on loneliness, mental health, and health service utilisation: a prospective cohort study of older adults with multimorbidity in primary care
Although evidence suggests that social distancing measures are effective in controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus, there are likely to be adverse effects on psychological, social, and physical health, among one vulnerable population in particular — older adults with multimorbidity.
Using pre- and peri- COVID-19 data from a cohort of older patients (≥60 years) with multimorbidity in primary care, this study aimed to understand changes in loneliness, mental health problems, and attendance to scheduled medical care among the cohort.
It was found that older patients with multiple chronic conditions had increased loneliness, anxiety, and insomnia. They also had increased missed scheduled appointments for chronic disease care. Being female, living alone, and having more than four chronic conditions were risk factors. Interventions such as teleconsultations are needed for loneliness, mental health, and health service accessibility.
The article highlights the importance of continuity of care in general practice, particularly for patients with multimorbidity conditions. The missed appointments observed in the current study can potentially lead to serious complications or adverse events if not addressed, as well as creating additional burden on the already stretched healthcare system considering the current climate of COVID-19. Future research attention is needed to provide alternative strategies for people with multiple chronic conditions.