WASHINGTON—More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, most adults 50 and older report that it has had a negative impact on their mental health. In a new survey conducted by AARP, seven in 10 older adults reported an increase in sadness or depression due to the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly 8 in 10 said they had increased concern about the future, worry or anxiety. Half of adults 50 and older reported feelings of anxiety in the last two weeks, and 56% noted difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.
Older adults are responding to the increased stress in a range of ways. About one in four reported they are eating comfort foods or “unhealthy foods” like chips and candy more often than before the pandemic. And 27% of people 50+ have increased the time they spend praying or meditating. One in 10 survey respondents reported seeking mental health care in the last year, a third of whom did so specifically because of the pandemic. Overall, 15% of older adults said that experiencing the pandemic made them more likely to seek help from a mental health provider if they had concerns.
“If you are feeling stressed and anxious after the last year, you are far from alone!” said Alison Bryant, Senior Vice President of Research at AARP. “As our survey highlights, most older adults’ mental health and wellbeing was affected by the pandemic—and some of the ways we coped might not have been great for our health, either. With many communities returning to normal, we hope older adults will consider taking steps to reclaim their health this spring and summer.”
The survey also highlighted how the pandemic increased loneliness and isolation among the 50+. Among older adults, 58% reported feeling increased loneliness, and 62% were less likely to socialize with friends and family compared to before the pandemic.
AARP’s Mental Health Center highlights news and resources for older adults’ mental wellbeing, and a recent Tele Town Hall focused on the issue.The organization is one of nearly 200 taking part in a Mental Health Action Day on May 20, which encourages participants to take one step to improve their mental health.
The survey was conducted online from April 22-26, 2021 with a total sample of 1,016 adults ages 50-plus. This national survey was conducted using NORC at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak 50+ Omnibus probability-based sample. The margin of error is +/- 4.33 percent.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.