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Journal Article


Troutman-Jordan M, Kazemi DM. Public Health Nurs. 2020; ePub(ePub): ePub.


(Copyright © 2020, John Wiley and Sons)






While the COVID‐19 pandemic has dramatically changed everyday life and evoked fear across all walks of life, the older adult population is particularly vulnerable. Currently, more than 46 million Americans are over 64 (Rural Health Information Hub, 2020). At 14% of the population, this group is at unique risk to physical and mental complications. Indeed, the COVID‐19 pandemic affects older adults in specific ways that deserve urgent care and attention (Sandoiu, 2020).

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) says that older adults--particularly those isolated or in cognitive decline--may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated, and withdrawn while in quarantine. They also are more likely to have underlying conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or respiratory illness--comorbidities known to raise the risk of severe COVID‐19 and COVID‐19‐related death (Sandoiu). These trends and risk factors suggest that older adults (both with and without prior mental health symptoms) are in uncharted territory as they experience new or exacerbated psychiatric symptoms.

Many older adults feel overwhelmed and hopeless in the best of times; the pandemic has heightened preexisting physical and mental health issues that have increased depression and suicide risk (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2020; WHO, 2020). Prior to COVID‐19, about 20% of people age 55 and older experienced some type of mental health or substance abuse concerns (Administration for Community Living, 2020; Centers for Disease Control, 2020b). Adults 75 and older have some of the highest suicide rates. Though they comprise just 12% of the U.S. population, older adults account for 18% of all suicides (American Association of Marriage and Family, 2020).

The most powerful factors affecting older adults' well‐being include mental health conditions; physical health, pain, and disability; anxiety; social isolation; loss; and disruption in routine (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2020). The pandemic has heightened the risk of "deaths of despair" (Well Being Trust, 2020). Functional disability, as well as numerous specific conditions common in older adults...

Language: en


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