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One in eight older adults developed depression for the first time: study

Toronto: About one in eight older adults developed depression for the first time during the pandemic, according to a study conducted in Canada. For those who had a history of depression, the numbers were even worse, the study said. In the fall of 2020, almost half (45 percent) of this group of 20,000 elderly people reported being depressed.

The University of Toronto researchers analyzed responses from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, which collected data from participants over an average of seven years, the study said.

“The high rate of first depression in 2020 highlights the significant toll the pandemic caused on a previously mentally healthy group of older adults,” says first author Andie MacNeil, University of Toronto.
While the rise in the prevalence of depression among older adults during the pandemic is well known, few previous studies have identified the percentage of people experiencing it for the first time or the percentage of people with a history of the disorder experiencing a relapse, the study said. published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

“The devastation of the pandemic that has upended so many aspects of everyday life has particularly affected those with a history of depression,” says study co-author Sapriya Birk.

“Health professionals should be vigilant in screening their patients who had mental health problems earlier in life,” said Birk.
The researchers identified several factors associated with depression in older adults during the pandemic, including insufficient income and savings, loneliness, chronic pain, problems accessing health care, a history of adverse childhood experiences and family conflict, the study said.

Older adults who felt their income was insufficient to meet their basic needs prior to the pandemic, and those who had fewer savings, were more likely to experience depression during the pandemic, the study said.

“These findings highlight the disproportionate burden on the mental health of individuals of low socioeconomic status during the pandemic.

“Many of these socioeconomic risk factors may have been exacerbated by the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, especially for those with fewer resources,” said co-author Margaret de Groh.

According to the study, individuals who experienced different dimensions of loneliness, such as feeling left out, feeling isolated, and lacking companionship, had an approximately 4 to 5 times higher risk of both occasional and recurrent depression.

Unsurprisingly, the lockdown has been particularly difficult for older adults who have been isolated and lonely during the pandemic.

“Social connections and social support are essential for well-being and mental health. Better support and assistance are needed for those who are isolated,” says co-author Ying Jiang.

Older adults with chronic pain and those who had difficulty accessing their usual health care, medication or treatments were more likely to become depressed in the fall of 2020, the study said.
“This finding underscores the importance of streamlining services to ensure that medical services are less disrupted when pandemics emerge in the future,” said co-author Professor Paul J. Villeneuve.

Individuals with a history of adversity were also more likely to become depressed in the fall of 2020, according to the study. Older adults who experienced family conflict during the pandemic were more than three times as likely to develop depression compared to their peers who did not . .

“Family conflict is a major stressor that can impact mental health even in the best of times.

“With the forced closure and the stress of the pandemic, many family relationships came under great strain. The resulting conflict posed a high risk for depression,” said senior author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, University of Toronto.

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