The Impact of COVID-19 Confinement on Cognition and Mental Health and Technology Use Among Socially Vulnerable Older People: Retrospective Cohort Study
Background: COVID-19 forced the implementation of restrictive measures in Spain, such as lockdown, home confinement, social distancing, and isolation. It is necessary to study whether limited access to basic services and decreased family and social support could have deleterious effects on cognition, quality of life, and mental health in vulnerable older people. Objective: This study aims to explore the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on cognition in older adults with mild cognitive impairment or dementia as the main outcome and the quality of life, perceived health status, and depression as secondary outcomes and to analyze the association of living alone and a change in living arrangements with those outcomes and other variables related with the use of technology and health services. Likewise, this study aims to analyze the association of high and low technophilia with those variables, to explore the access and use of health care and social support services, and, finally, to explore the informative-, cognitive-, entertainment-, and socialization-related uses of information and communications technologies (ICTs) during the COVID-19 outbreak. Methods: This cohort study was conducted in Málaga (Spain). In total, 151 participants with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia, from the SMART4MD (n=75, 49.7%) and TV-AssistDem (n=76, 50.3%) randomized clinical trials, were interviewed by telephone between May 11 and June 26, 2020. All participants had undergone 1-3 assessments (in 6-month intervals) on cognition, quality of life, and mood prior to the COVID-19 breakout. Results: The outbreak did not significantly impact the cognition, quality of life, and mood of our study population when making comparisons with baseline assessments prior to the outbreak. Perceived stress was reported as moderate during the outbreak. After correction for multiple comparisons, living alone, a change in living arrangements, and technophilia were not associated with negative mental health outcomes. However, being alone was nominally associated with self-perceived fear and depression, and higher technophilia with better quality of life, less boredom, perceived stress and depression, and also less calmness. Overall, health care and social support service access and utilization were high. The most used ICTs during the COVID-19 outbreak were the television for informative, cognitive, and entertainment-related uses and the smartphone for socialization. Conclusions: Our findings show that the first months of the outbreak did not significantly impact the cognition, quality of life, perceived health status, and depression of our study population when making comparisons with baseline assessments prior to the outbreak. Living alone and low technophilia require further research to establish whether they are risk factors of mental health problems during lockdowns in vulnerable populations. Moreover, although ICTs have proven to be useful for informative-, cognitive-, entertainment-, and socialization-related uses during the pandemic, more evidence is needed to support these interventions.
COVID-19; Mental Health; Social isolation
Dura-Perez E, Goodman-Casanova JM, Vega-Nuñez A, Guerrero-Pertiñez G, Varela-Moreno E, Garolera M, et al. The Impact of COVID-19 Confinement on Cognition and Mental Health and Technology Use Among Socially Vulnerable Older People: Retrospective Cohort Study. J Med Internet Res. 2022 Feb 22;24(2):e30598.
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