Pandemic-induced social isolation: Assessing its impact on older adults' wellbeing

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A caller study published successful PNAS explores nan effects of societal isolation successful adults 50 years of property and older.

Study: Changes successful well-being among socially isolated older group during nan COVID-19 pandemic: An outcome-wide analysis. Image Credit: Jelena Stanojkovic /

Social isolation and health

Due to nan accrued consequence of terrible illness and mortality among older group during nan coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, these individuals were much often advised to isolate themselves from societal contact. These restrictions connected societal interactions whitethorn person exacerbated feelings of loneliness and isolation among these populations who were antecedently struggling pinch societal relationships.

Conversely, it is imaginable that their pre-pandemic position of isolation mightiness person protected them from emotion immoderate acute alteration successful their manner aliases wellbeing. This could person enabled them to header amended pinch nan abruptly altered conditions of societal contact, arsenic galore whitethorn person already been surviving pinch distant transportation of equipment and services.

About nan study

The researchers examined outcomes from complete 4,600 participants successful nan English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) who had an mean property of 67 years. All study participants belonged to backstage households.

Social isolation was wished based connected nan beingness of partners, being successful interaction pinch friends aliases pinch family, and participating successful organizational work. Study observations were obtained betwixt 2018-2019 and again successful June/July 2020, pinch last observations recorded successful November/December 2020.

Study outcomes included wellbeing, health, wellness behaviors, financial status, and net use. These outcomes were compared betwixt cohorts of aged individuals who had already been isolated erstwhile nan pandemic began and those who went into isolation pursuing nan onset of nan outbreak.

What did nan study find?

About 29% of nan study participants were already isolated earlier nan commencement of nan COVID-19 pandemic. In this group, nan effect of pandemic-related restrictions connected societal interactions connected life restitution was smaller.

Before nan pandemic began, already isolated individuals reported little life restitution and value of life, were much apt to smoke, little apt to exercise, study mediocre slumber habits, acquisition loneliness, and interest astir early financial viability. Daily net usage among these individuals was much apt to beryllium little than nan different cohort that was not isolated earlier nan pandemic.

After nan pandemic began, some groups knowledgeable a diminution successful value of life. However, nan recently isolated cohort reported a simplification from baseline levels that was doubly arsenic ample arsenic that observed successful nan different group. The steepest diminution was from nan pre-pandemic clip constituent to nan first pandemic clip point.   

The already isolated group did not suffer arsenic overmuch from accrued loneliness arsenic those who were recently isolated. Nevertheless, nan summation was astir important from baseline to nan first pandemic clip constituent successful recently isolated individuals.

The already isolated cohort exhibited important reductions successful beingness activity passim nan study play arsenic compared to nan recently isolated cohort. Both groups reported expected financial accent successful nan future.

Reduced fears of not being capable to header pinch financial needs successful nan early whitethorn person been attributed to nan importantly reduced costs of surviving during nan pandemic, arsenic galore expenses related to shopping and societal outings were eliminated.

The already isolated cohort was much worried astir their early financial stableness by nan extremity of nan study period, contempt some having akin levels of interest astatine baseline. Individuals who were already isolated did not summation their usage of nan net arsenic compared to those who were isolated by pandemic-related restrictions.

Neither group showed awesome differences successful their wellness position aliases slumber quality. Both groups reported an accrued likelihood of slump and anxiety.

Overall, isolated older group did not suffer arsenic overmuch from nan nationalist wellness restrictions connected societal interactions arsenic nan non-isolated. Nevertheless, wellness outcomes remained worse successful nan antecedently socially isolated than those who were recently isolated. Health behaviors, financial stress, and net usage successful nan aged isolated cohort besides suffered to a greater grade successful antecedently isolated individuals.


The existent study differs from erstwhile investigation arsenic it utilized a typical sample and aggregate outcomes to measure nan effect of abrupt isolation connected aged adults arsenic compared to those already isolated. Taken together, nan study findings show a greater adverse effect of societal isolation successful older adults abruptly forced into specified a business arsenic compared to those who were already surviving successful comparative isolation.

Already-isolated adults, contempt showing comparatively worse outcomes earlier nan pandemic, were somewhat protected, perchance owed to less changes successful their circumstances…those who were already antecedently isolated stay worse disconnected than their socially engaged counterparts.”

These observations bespeak that older adults forced to isolate must beryllium monitored and cared for connected a regular basis. Simultaneously, immoderate whitethorn acquisition utmost impacts, for which societal and nationalist wellness interventions and support must beryllium planned. These whitethorn see training these individuals successful nan usage of integer resources, community-based outreach attempts, and financial subsidies to amended their financial wellbeing.

Journal reference:

  • Kung, C. S. J. & Steptoe, A. (2024). Changes successful well-being among socially isolated older group during nan COVID-19 pandemic: An outcome-wide analysis. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.2308697121.