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Impact of national Covid-19-related policies on loneliness among elderly receiving elderly care

Research project When the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in Spring 2020, Sweden introduced policies targeting the elderly, including strict social distancing and a visiting ban at elderly care homes.

While the policies aimed at protecting the elderly from Covid-19, they may also have increased loneliness among elderly, which is an already entrenched public health problem. The goal of the project is therefore to examine the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and related policies on loneliness among elderly.

Head of project

Per Gustafsson
Associate professor
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2020-12-01 2022-06-30

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health

Research area

Public health and health care science

External funding

Forte

Project description

The purpose of the project
is to examine the impact on loneliness among elderly by the covid-19 pandemic itself, and by related policies targeting the elderly, through a survey of all recipients of elderly care, based on these research questions:

  1. Did loneliness increase among elderly during the early stage of the Covid-19 epidemic in Spring 2020?

  2. Did the introduction of targeted Covid-19 related policies impact on loneliness among elderly?

  3. Were the loneliness trends (RQ1) and impact of policies (RQ2) different for elderly receiving home care, versus elderly living in care homes?

Description 
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic Swedish policies targeting the elderly were introduced in March 2020; specifically strict social distancing  recommendations for people >70 years of age in mid-March, and a visiting ban at care homes for older people from first of April. While these policies were implemented to protect this group vulnerable from serious and fatal consequences of Covid-19, they may also have brought the unintended consequences of aggravating the already entrenched public health problem of loneliness among elderly. The impact of the pandemic and societal responses for loneliness among the elderly is however largely unknown.

The proposed project is in a world-unique position to detail the immediate impact of the pandemic - both pandemic as a whole, and the targeted policies - on loneliness among elderly. It will capitalize on the chance occurrence that the implementation of the Swedish Elderly Survey (March 9th – May 24th 2020, expected N ≈ 120,000) coincided with the early stage of the pandemic, before and during Swedish public health responses targeting the elderly were in place. The impact will be evaluated by a strong quasi-experimental multiple-group interrupted time series design with multiple controls to ensure strong causal inference.

External funding