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The Impact of Social Isolation on the Senior


According to the University of Coimbra, a team of researchers is developing a study to assess the consequences of social isolation imposed by Covid-19 on the physical and psychological well-being of the elderly.

The researchers of the Neuropsychology and Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention Research Center of the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences of the University of Coimbra intend to identify possible emotional, psychological, cognitive and functional changes, as mentioned by Sandra Freitas, coordinator of the group of specialists.

To evaluate the cognitive and psychological functioning of people before and after the compulsory social confinement, 250 adults over 50 and elderly people from all over the country were recruited who had already participated in previous studies related to neuropsychological changes, pathological or not, resulting from aging. This way, “a more rigorous evaluation of the impact of social isolation on mental health is possible, since we had data prior to the pandemic,” explains, quoted by the UC, the coordinator of the study.

For a more detailed analysis of the impact of social isolation in the face of the pandemic on the mental health of these age groups of the Portuguese population, participants were subjected, via video call, to specific (neuro)psychological evaluation, in order to examine changes in depressive symptoms, anxiety and stress, quality and satisfaction of life, functional capacity, memory complaints and cognitive status.

Possible relationships with sociodemographic characteristics and risk profiles were also observed, as well as the “existing literacy among participants for topics related to COVID-19, social isolation and mental health,” says the specialist.

In a first phase of analysis of the results obtained, Sandra Freitas adds that “the period of mandatory confinement significantly favored the development of higher levels of depressive symptoms and, consequently, worse quality of life in the Portuguese.

The researcher states that the final results of the study under development will be fundamental “to understand how the mental health of each socio-demographic fringe is affected by this pandemic crisis, to make recommendations based on the Portuguese reality, to plan future interventions for the prevention of mental health in similar situations, among many other aspects.

In the scope of the project, a webpage “CuidaIdosaMente” was also developed with the objective of increasing mental health literacy and providing preventive strategies to the population.

The research funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), through the first edition Research4Covid-19 has the collaboration of a researcher from the GeoBioTec Research Center of the University of Aveiro


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