Exploring psychological resiliency of older adults with diabetes


Studies suggest that exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with a variety of different mental health consequences including reports of depression, loneliness, and insomnia. People who are more than 65 years of age and those with underlying medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity are particularly vulnerable to negative outcomes from COVID-19. Until now, few investigations have identified and separated the mental health consequences of exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic from preexisting factors in this age group. A new prospective study of a large cohort of older adults with type 2 diabetes and overweight/obesity from across the U.S. has explored this subject with surprising results.

The prospective study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, showed that from pre-COVID to during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of mild or greater symptoms of depression increased by 1.6 times (from 19.3% to 30.4% of participants), while loneliness rose by 1.8 times (from 12.3% to 22.1% of participants). Reports of insomnia remained stable in the cohort (at 33.3x% and 31.5%, respectively). More than half of the study participants remained free of clinically significant levels of adverse mental health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many older adults have demonstrated psychological resiliency amid the pandemic, but sex and race/ethnicity did play an important role in these outcomes,” says Ariana M. Chao, Ph.D., CRNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) and the lead author of the article. “Women, relative to men, had greater odds of depressive symptoms, anxiety, loneliness, and perceived COVID-19 threat. Compared with participants who were non-Hispanic White, those from underrepresented groups tended to report lower levels of depressive symptoms, loneliness, and insomnia. For example, 32.9% of women versus 26.1% of males reported symptoms of mild or greater depression during the pandemic.”

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