It is an established fact that COVID-19 pandemic has severe effects on older adults and those with pre-existing comorbidities. However, it has also been reported that COVID-19 causes more anticipatory anxiety in older people than in younger adults.
A study conducted in China showed that adults above the age of 60 years had high levels of distress due to COVID-19. Advice for such anxiety often revolves around taking a break from the news cycle and limiting the time you spend reading about the pandemic. However, for a recent research study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, scientists worked to establish whether knowledge about COVID-19 infection made people feel more or less stressful.
COVID-19 related stress in different age groups
Scientists from North Carolina State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted a study to find out the effect of COVID-19 related stress on different age groups. In their study, scientists included 515 people who ranged from 20 to 79 years of age, out of which 9 percent were over the age of 60 years. The survey was conducted between 20 March and 19 April and contained 29 quiz questions that were designed to assess how much the participants knew about COVID-19 infection.
Well-informed people and older adults may have lower COVID-19 related stress
The study found that people who had more factual information about COVID-19 had less stress, irrespective of their age. The information consisted of the ways of transmission and prevention of COVID-19.
Though COVID-19 causes more anxiety in older adults, their life experiences might help them be better prepared to avoid everyday stressors when compared to younger adults.
The study further showed that older adults were more likely to use proactive coping mechanisms to manage their stress. Proactive coping is a way of anticipating possible stressors and reacting in advance to either prevent or lessen their impact on life.
Information or misinformation?
During the current coronavirus pandemic, there has been an avalanche of unreliable and false information which is spreading around the world. The extent of this spread is so great that the COVID-19 pandemic is also being referred to as a ‘disinfodemic’ by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Guy Berger, the Director for Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at UNESCO, stated, “There seems to be barely an area left untouched by disinformation in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from the origin of the coronavirus, through to unproven prevention and ‘cures’, and encompassing responses by governments, companies, celebrities and others.”
In order to deal with this chaos, the World Health Organization (WHO), had added a section of ‘Myth Busters’ on their online coronavirus advice page very early on. It exposes a number of myths related to the COVID-19 infection such as killing the virus by drinking potent alcoholic drinks or by exposure to high temperatures or cold weather.
People should only refer to authentic sources of information, such as government portals, to know more about the COVID-19 pandemic. Misinformation can not only lead to unnecessary anxiety but also accidents and harm.
For more information, read our article on How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic.
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