Mental health and social interactions of older people with physical disabilities in England during the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal cohort study | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
Evidence before this study
We searched PubMed on Jan 20, 2021, for articles published in English until Jan 20, 2021, using the following search terms: “COVID” OR “coronavirus” AND “Disability” OR “Mobility impairment” OR “Physical Impairment” AND “Depression” OR “Mental health” OR “Anxiety” OR “Quality of life” OR “Loneliness” OR “Sleep” OR “Social contact”. No studies involving population representative longitudinal data were identified. Cross-sectional studies initiated after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic show poorer mental health and wellbeing and greater loneliness among people with disabilities, but research focusing on physical disability is scarce.
Added value of this study
The study showed that older people in England with physical disabilities had more symptoms of depression and anxiety, greater loneliness, and poorer psychological wellbeing, quality of life, and sleep quality than people without a disability. Differences were apparent when disability was defined either as impaired activities of daily living or impaired physical mobility, and after adjustment for pre-pandemic levels of mental health and social interactions as well as socioeconomic and demographic factors. Disability was also associated with less real-time contact (telephone and video calls) and written contact (email and letters) with family and friends among people with disabilities than people without disabilities.
Implications of all the available evidence
People with physical disabilities have already been identified as particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic because mobility problems might limit access to health-care services, social services, and informal care, and the presence of comorbidities increases the risk of severe outcomes following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our findings suggest that attention should also be paid to adverse emotional and social outcomes, and emphasise the importance of supporting people with disabilities during and after periods of epidemic illness and enforced social isolation.