May 28. Many of us are daily resisting the pressures to place us in a box called ‘the elderly’. With the hard medical realities this is not easy. There is no question that as you pass into your sixties, then into successive decades, the risk of dying from Covid-19 shows a sharp linear increase. With matters of emotion and behaviour, on the other hand, there are grounds for resisting such age-determination. Nonetheless the social scientists now conducting detailed research into how people are coping with the crisis have a tendency to group their findings into age brackets.
Following yesterday’s examination of solitude and loneliness revealed in the Nuffield / UCL Covid 19 Social Study, here are the findings more broadly about the interaction between age and experience (most of the data shows little change over the lockdown period). Whilst the figures are statistical facts (subject to the issues of category definition and sample quality), the explanations of cause and consequence are matters of judgement. So, feel free to interpret these findings. The two categories used are 60 and over, and 18-29 year-olds.
The elderly are more likely than the young to:
- Comply with Government guidelines
- Show confidence in Government
- Have feeling of life satisfaction
- Have a sense of control of finances, family relationships, future plans
- Be concerned about meeting up with family
- Be concerned about going to cultural venues
The elderly are less likely than the young to:
- Experience depression and anxiety
- Employment stress
- Financial stress
- Have thoughts of death or self-harm
- To have been physically or psychologically abused
- Experience loneliness
- Be concerned about meeting up with age-group friends
- Be concerned about going out for a coffee, drink or meals
- Be concerned about having time alone
Some of the differences are smaller than others. There is virtually no variation by age in taking exercise or experiencing face to face contact.
Taken in the round, the striking feature is the lower incidence in the key categories of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness amongst the older population, despite their much greater exposure to serious illness and death in the pandemic, and their greater likelihood of being locked down.
Addenda. Since writing this, the Times has today published results of a reworking by a team from Exeter, Manchester and Brunel Universities of a BBC survey of 2018 which questioned 46 thousand people from 237 countries about their experience of loneliness. As with the UCL evidence, the new research demonstrates that loneliness falls rather than increases with age
The Times. 28 May 2020