“Youngest” older Canadians report most pandemic stress

“Youngest” older Canadians report most pandemic stress

“Younger” older Canadians, aged 55 to 64, were more likely to experience depression, anxiety and stress than their older peers, and to have seen incomes fall or experience increased home stress, according to a new survey.

“That was a bit of a surprise for us,” said Dr. Gloria Gutman, Diversity Access Team Lead at the Gerontology Research Centre at SFU.

She noted that while seniors in care facilities have received more public attention, “only about five per cent” of Canadian seniors are in care facilities.

“The question to me was, how are people who are living in the community doing?” she asked.

About 40 per cent of Canadians aged 55 to 64 are still in the workforce, said Gutman. “So for them, it’s more of a disruption of their normal life patterns.”

She also noted that more people in the under 65 group reported changes in family situations, such as adult children returning home and increased tension between family members. There was also “a small but worrying” increase in reports of abuse.

While the majority of both age groups reported wearing masks, social distancing and other public health measures, those over 65 were about six percentage points more likely to do so than their younger counterparts.

Seventy-eight per cent of those over 65 wore a mask “most of the time” versus 72 per cent for those aged 55 to 64. Ninety per cent of those over 65 practised social distancing while only 85 per cent of those aged 55 to 64 did.

Women were also much more likely to wear masks (79 per cent) than men (62 per cent) and to practice social distancing (90 per cent) compared to men (76 per cent).

Older lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) respondents were also more likely to follow public health guidelines for COVID-19 than their heterosexual peers.

Only 29 per cent of LGB people reported socializing with family or friends at home “many times,” compared with 40 per cent of heterosexual people.

Gutman suggested that LGB experiences in the HIV/AIDS pandemic may have played a significant role in shaping how that group viewed the current pandemic. LGB respondents were ten times more likely than heterosexual respondents to report having experienced the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Living through the experience of the HIV/AID pandemic, she said, may have enabled older LGB people “to see the seriousness of the pandemic.”

LGB respondents also reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than their heterosexual peers, although Gutman noted that to generally be the case even without a pandemic, as many LGB “have lived through stigma and discrimination.”

The online survey of 4,380 Canadians aged 55 and over was conducted in the fall of 2020.

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