'A surprise to no one': Some coping better than others with COVID-19, research suggests
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VANCOUVER -- Recent surveys suggest older adults are coping the best with the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to emotional well-being.
A study of Canadian and U.S. residents suggested those 60+ fared the best so far, according to the University of British Columbia.
Middle-aged and younger adults were more likely to struggle, the research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences suggests.
"Our findings provide new evidence that older adults are emotionally resilient despite public discourse often portraying their vulnerability," the study's lead author Patrick Klaiber said in a news release issued by UBC.
"We also found that younger adults (18 to 39) are at a greater risk for loneliness and psychological distress during the pandemic. "
Part of the difference in ability to cope may be age-related stressors, the graduate student said.
Younger and middle-aged (40-59) adults had to deal with unemployment or working from home, and child care and homeschooling.
"They are also more likely to experience different types of ongoing non-pandemic stressors than older adults, such as interpersonal conflicts," Klaiber said.
While older adults may have worries about COVID-19, including a higher mortality rate and severe complications, many have also developed coping skills with age.
It's a message consistent with comments from B.C.'s provincial health officer earlier this week.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said a provincial survey suggested the same: younger people were struggling the most with mental health challenges.
Calling it a "surprise to no one," she said a "significant proportion" of British Columbians felt their mental health was worsening for reasons including anxiety over the virus, fear of job loss and the challenges of caring for family.
She said about a third of people reported having difficulty accessing health care, and 15 per cent were worried about being able to put food on the table.
But, she said, young people make up a greater portion of what she called the "mental health and economic burden… and this may in part be because the pandemic has impacted many of the occupations that they worked in."
"Younger people were more likely to report decreased mental health, increased difficulty in accessing counselling, not working, difficulty in meeting your financial needs, and likely to have to move because of affordability," Henry said Monday.
"One in four young people reported health conditions associated with risk for severe COVID illness as well."
Henry said adults with children reported greater mental health and economic burdens than those without: "Worsening mental health, stress, sleep reduction, increased alcohol consumption and concerns about financial situations in particular."
She said B.C.'s success with flattening the curve comes with challenges, and more for some people than others.
An analysis of the data, which will include race and socioeconomic status, will help guide the province's response.
Henry said she's been glad to see data suggesting older people have a sense of resiliency.
"That makes me heartened for how we can support each other," she said.
In the UBC study, the daily diary data collected from 776 participants between mid-March and mid-April suggested the older age groups had more positive events in their day. Younger people cited fewer positive interactions, but benefited the most from them, Klaiber said.
"This is a good reminder for younger adults to create more opportunities for physically-distanced or remote positive experiences as a way of mitigating distress during the pandemic."