Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on the Mental Health of Peruvian Older Adults.

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Medicine

Abstract

Older adults are particularly at risk of COVID-19 infection, especially in countries with less robust economic and social structures such as Peru. In addition, measures introduced to reduce the spread of the virus such as quarantine ('shielding at home') and 'social distancing' might negatively affect the mental health of older adults.

We plan to complete a research study to understand how COVID-19 and quarantine measures have affected the mental health of older adults. We will interview older adults, by telephone, to better understand their experiences and points of view. Results from our study will help to provide specific information to governments as the pandemic progresses, and enable the voice of older adults to be heard by the general population, researchers and policy makers.

Technical Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected older adult populations worldwide. Older adults have the highest morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19. Restrictive mobility measures (quarantine, and/or social distancing) aim to reduce viral transmission and protect the most vulnerable. However, there are likely to be unintended consequences of such restrictive measures on the mental (and physical) health of older adults, including increasing feelings of loneliness, reduced physical activity, depression and anxiety. Thus, studies that seek to understand the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of older adults are urgently needed, particularly among countries with less robust social and health systems such as Peru. Peru, a middle-income country, has experienced one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths per million people. Furthermore, adults 65 years of age and over represent around 10% of the Peruvian population, and around 25% of them live in poverty.

The overall objective of this research proposal is to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent restriction measures on the mental health of older adults from low socioeconomic conditions in areas of Lima, Peru. We plan to conduct a qualitative study, remotely by telephone, using open-ended questions to elicit the points of view and experiences of older adults. Results from this study will generate data to inform future interventions and policy to
mitigate the effects of restrictive mobility measures on the physical and mental health of older adults from this and other low resource settings as the pandemic progresses.

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