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Older Adults and the Mental Health Effects of COVID-19

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) began to spread in the US in early 2020, older adults experienced disproportionately greater adverse effects from the pandemic including more severe complications, higher mortality, concerns about disruptions to their daily routines and access to care, difficulty in adapting to technologies like telemedicine, and concerns that isolation would exacerbate existing mental health conditions. Older adults tend to have lower stress reactivity, and in general, better emotional regulation and well-being than younger adults,1 but given the scale and magnitude of the pandemic, there was concern about a mental health crisis among older adults. The concern pertained to older adults both at home and in residential care facilities, where contact with friends, family, and caregivers became limited. The early data suggest a much more nuanced picture. This Viewpoint summarizes evidence suggesting that, counter to expectation, older adults as a group may be more resilient to the anxiety, depression, and stress-related mental health disorders characteristic of younger populations during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Corresponding Author: Ipsit V. Vahia, MD, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill St, Mail Stop 234, Belmont, MA 02478 (ivahia@partners.org; ivahia@mclean.harvard.edu).

Published Online: November 20, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21753

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Drs Vahia and Reynolds reported receiving honorarium, respectively, as editor and editor in chief of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Dr Jeste reported receiving a stipend as editor-in-chief of International Psychogeriatrics. No other disclosures were reported.

Additional Contributions: We thank Hailey Cray, BA, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, for her assistance in preparing this manuscript, for which she received no compensation.

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