COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

Knowledge Synthesis for Mechanistic and Targeted In-Person and Digital Social-Connection Intervention for Wellness and Resilience in Older Adults in Pandemic Context and Beyond

Key Messages

A rapid review was conducted to identify interventions tackling the mental health consequences of outbreak-related social restrictions for older people. We identified a limited number of interventions, mostly ongoing. The interventions implemented a range of strategies such as screening, use of technology to promote social connections, use of telehealth for at-risk groups, online resources for physical and psychological health, and proving reliable information and support to minimize outbreak-related worries. Similar strategies were proposed by experts who also highlighted the need to consider vulnerable groups such as those with poorer digital literacy, chronic conditions, and more disadvantaged socio-economic background.

Lay Summary

Literature on interventions aiming to reduce the psychological impact of social isolation resulting from lockdown measures is emerging with most studies still underway or in development. Limited insights were provided from studies conducted during previous outbreaks. A number of publications provided relevant recommendations informed by clinical expertise, on-the-ground initiatives, or interventions evaluated when social distancing measures were not in place. Collectively this literature largely focuses on strategies aiming to (1) help identify individuals most vulnerable to the psychological impact of social distancing measures, (2) increase opportunities for social interactions, (3) provide social support and care from health professionals through telehealth, (4) provide behavioural and cognitive strategies to promote resilience and coping skills, and (5) address aspects of the pandemic that could be anxiety provoking, for instance by providing reliable sources of information on the disease. For obvious reasons, a strong emphasis is put on the use of Information and Communication Technologies, which led to concerns around the risk of widening an existing ‘digital divide’ in the population. Beyond digital access and literacy, other factors proposed to increase vulnerability to social distancing measures included low socio-economic status, rurality, presence of pre-existing mental and physical health conditions and living alone. In contrast, time outdoors, healthy lifestyles, regular routines, strong social connections were seen as promoting resilience.

Keywords

  • Mental Health
  • Social distancing
  • Elderly population
  • Social isolation
  • Social networks
  • Knowledge Synthesis
  • Loneliness
  • Confinement
  • Outbreak
  • Resilience

Author(s)

  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Laurette Dube, McGill University
  • Catherine Paquet, Université Laval
  • Mike Cisneros-Franco, McGill University
  • Laurette Dubé, McGill University

For more information, please contact: Sabina Hamalova, sabina.hamalova@mcgill.ca

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Population

Aging

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