Effects of pandemic on mental health of the elderly

Before the pandemic, there was already a lot of issues of isolation and loneliness. This was especially the case for the younger and older age groups. For the older people, they needed the support of trained professionals in the hospitals and hospices. However, many things have changed since the start of the pandemic. One of those was the increased isolation of elderly people in the society.

Some researchers had predicted this change especially due to increased lock down and being cut off from others in the society. Of course it was necessary to reduce the infection rate of the COVID-19 virus, many people experienced mental health issues such as loneliness and depression.

This led to a trial carried out by a team of researchers and clinicians which was named BASIL-C19 (Behavioral Activation in Social Isolation). The team included academics from the universities of York, Leeds and Manchester and the NHS Foundation Trust together with the leading charity organisation, AgeUK.

The trial consisted of brief telephone conversations with elderly people to help maintain daily routines and social contact. The trial was conducted for eight weeks and the team observed that there was a marked improvement in the mental health of the elderly participants. This improved their lifestyles and reduced loneliness.

The leader of the research team, Professor Simon Gilbody, Director of the Mental Health & Addictions Research Group (MHARG) at the University of York and Hull York Medical School commented, “We predicted increased rates of loneliness and depression for this vulnerable population, and we knew what might work to prevent this. Care in the NHS must be informed by the highest quality of evidence and we did not waste any time in deciding to set up a clinical trial to test this out.”

After the encouraging results of this trial, a follow-up is being planned on a much larger scale. This will consist of over 600 older people across England and Wales. It will be the largest study ever conducted to improve mental health.

As man is a social animal, it has been shown time and again that loneliness can drive one into depression and other psychological impacts. Therefore, the constant interaction is needed more than ever even during these hard times. It doesn’t matter whether we communicate through telephone or zoom calls, we need to care for and support each other no matter the age group.

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