Pandemic disrupting social networks that are key to older adults' well-being

Indiana University
14-May-2020 9:30 AM EDT, by Indiana University

Newswise — Having a strong social network of friends and family can have a positive impact on people’s emotional and physical well-being, particularly for those 65 and older. However, COVID-19 has forced people indoors to maintain social distancing and help stop the spread of the virus.

IU researchers are now studying how the pandemic has disrupted those social connections for older adults.

“There’s quite a lot of work now showing that the size and social support offered by older adults' personal social networks is hugely important for their physical, cognitive and mental well-being,” said Anne Krendl, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington. “The COVID-19 outbreak has caused major disruptions in older adults’ access to those networks. The question now is to understand the impact those disruptions have had on those networks.”

Krendl and her collaborators, including Brea Perry, professor of sociology at IU Bloomington, have been studying the personal social networks of elderly people and the effects those networks have not only on their physical and mental wellbeing, but also in preserving cognitive function.

Social cognitive skills are critical, Krendl said, to successfully navigate social relationships. However, as people age, their cognitive skills can become impaired, making that navigation more difficult. 

Krendl’s original study, which is ongoing, consists of 120 adults age 65 and older and includes questions about the individuals’ social networks (friends and family members they regularly interact with and rely on), their current depression and anxiety levels, physical activity levels, perceived stress and loneliness and their basic social cognitive skills (how well they remember faces, recognize emotions and understand what other people are thinking).

Krendl’s original study, which is ongoing, consists of 120 adults age 65 and older and includes questions about the individuals’ social networks (friends and family members they regularly interact with and rely on), their current depression and anxiety levels, physical activity levels, perceived stress and loneliness and their basic social cognitive skills (how well they remember faces, recognize emotions and understand what other people are thinking).

Early findings from that study found that older adults have relatively impaired social cognitive skills relative to young adults and also have smaller and more tightly knit networks compared to young adults. As the study progresses, Krendl’s team is working to gain a better understanding of how important personal social networks are to older people’s cognitive function.

She will now also look at how COVID-19 has affected older adults’ personal social networks, and, as a result, their physical and mental well-being. Interviews of study participants are currently being conducted over the phone by undergraduates working in Krendl’s lab.

“Research by my lab and others has found that as people age, maintaining high quality social interactions becomes increasingly important,” Krendl said. “However, the core social cognitive abilities that support making new social relationships (remembering faces, tune in to other people’s perspectives) are impaired over the lifespan. So, we are looking at both the networks in place and if having ‘better’ social cognitive skills may serve as a protective buffer both in minimizing disruptions to their networks, and, ultimately, on their well-being.”

Krendl and her team will use findings from the study to develop and test interventions that may facilitate how older adults develop and maintain social relationships. For example, the interventions could target improving the key social cognitive skills that help older adults build their social networks. 

Krendl also hopes her work will help older adults and their families better prioritize the social relationships that protect older adults’ overall well-being.

“Ultimately, we want to improve older adults’ quality of life,” Krendl said.




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5419
Released: 15-Apr-2021 4:10 PM EDT
Penn Study Suggests Those Who Had COVID-19 May Only Need One Vaccine Dose
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

New findings from Penn suggest that people who have recovered from COVID-19 may only need a single mRNA vaccine dose. However, those who did not have COVID-19 did not have a full immune response until after a second vaccine dose, reinforcing the importance of completing the two recommended doses.

Released: 15-Apr-2021 4:00 PM EDT
June 2021 Issue of AJPH Comprises the Effects of COVID-19 on Drug Overdoses, E-cigarette Use, and Public Health Measures and Strategies
American Public Health Association (APHA)

June 2021 AJPH Issue highlights COVID-19 concerns in relation to fatal drug overdoses, drops in youth e-cigarette use, importance of public health measures, and strategies to protect correctional staff.

Newswise: 262150_web.jpg
Released: 15-Apr-2021 3:20 PM EDT
COVID-19 reduces access to opioid dependency treatment for new patients
Princeton University

COVID-19 has been associated with increases in opioid overdose deaths, which may be in part because the pandemic limited access to buprenorphine, a treatment used for opioid dependency, according to a new study led by Princeton University researchers.

Newswise: UGA to Establish National NIH-funded Center to Fight Flu
Released: 15-Apr-2021 2:45 PM EDT
UGA to Establish National NIH-funded Center to Fight Flu
University of Georgia

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Georgia a contract to establish the Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research (CIDER). The contract will provide $1 million in first-year funding and is expected to be supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, for seven years and up to approximately $92 million.

Released: 15-Apr-2021 2:15 PM EDT
Meatpacking plants increased COVID-19 cases in US counties
University of California, Davis

An estimated 334,000 COVID-19 cases are attributable to meatpacking plants, resulting in $11.2 billion in economic damage, according to a new study led by a researcher at the University of California, Davis.

Newswise: 262052_web.jpg
Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:55 PM EDT
How to build a city that prioritizes public health
Colorado State University

Most people by now have memorized the public health guidelines meant to help minimize transmission of COVID-19: wash your hands, wear a mask, keep six feet apart from others. That part is easy.

Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:45 PM EDT
Wake Forest School of Medicine Begins Study to Test New Mask for Healthcare Workers
Wake Forest Baptist Health

Open Standard Industries, Inc. (OSI), manufacturer of the OSR-M1 non-valved reusable elastomeric face mask, is pleased to formally announce the launch of its first Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved user feasibility study. The trial is being led by the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Infectious Diseases at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health. Recruitment in the study is underway, and enrollment is expected to be completed by May 28, 2021.

Newswise: Major clinical trial to test Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine opens for enrollment at UTHealth in Houston
Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:45 PM EDT
Major clinical trial to test Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine opens for enrollment at UTHealth in Houston
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

A large national clinical trial to evaluate the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for safety and efficacy in pregnant women is now open for enrollment at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:15 PM EDT
For veterans, a hidden side effect of COVID: Feelings of personal growth
Yale University

The U.S. military veteran population is known to have abnormally high rates of suicide, so health officials have been concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic might elevate risk of psychiatric disorders, particularly among those suffering from post-traumatic stress and related disorders.

Newswise: 262026_web.jpg
Released: 15-Apr-2021 12:55 PM EDT
Significant spread of all coronavirus variants tracked in Houston area
Elsevier

In late 2020, several concerning SARS-CoV-2 variants emerged globally. They are believed to be more easily transmissible, and there is concern that some may reduce the effectiveness of antibody treatments and vaccines.


Showing results

110 of 5419

close
1.98896