The Effect of COVID-19 on Loneliness in the Elderly. An Empirical Comparison of Pre-and Peri-Pandemic Loneliness in Community-Dwelling Elderly

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

48 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Old-age loneliness is a global problem with many members of the scientific community suspecting increased loneliness in the elderly population during COVID-19 and the associated safety measures. Although hypothesized, a direct comparison of loneliness before and during the pandemic is hard to achieve without a survey of loneliness prior to the pandemic. This study provides a direct comparison of reported loneliness before and during the pandemic using 1:1 propensity score matching (PSM) on a pre- and a peri-pandemic sample of elderly (60+ years) individuals from Lower Austria, a county of Austria (Europe). Differences on a loneliness index computed from the short De Jong Gierveld scale were found to be significant, evidencing that loneliness in the elderly population had in fact risen slightly during the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated safety measures. Although the reported loneliness remained rather low, this result illustrated the effect of the "new normal" under COVID-19. As loneliness is a risk factor for physical and mental illness, this result is important in planning the future handling of the pandemic, as safety measures seem to have a negative impact on loneliness. This work confirms the anticipated increase in loneliness in the elderly population during COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number585308
Pages (from-to)585308
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2020

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