In many ways COVID-19 has been particularly hard on older adults, who are more vulnerable to complications from the virus. But when it comes to their mental health, the older they are, the better they’ve felt, according to recent surveys.
One is a newly released University of Michigan poll, in which 2 in 3 adults ages 50-80 (65 percent) rated their mental health as excellent or very good, 27 percent as good, and 8 percent as fair or poor.
Only 18 percent of the approximately 2,000 older adults surveyed in the January online poll, supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, said their overall mental health had gotten worse since the pandemic began.
More than 80 percent said their mental health is as good as, or better than, it was 20 years ago. (For more on older adults’ resilience, see here.)
“I really think resiliency, life experience, the ability to put things in perspective can really help … [people] shoulder some of these stressors a little bit better,” says Lauren Gerlach, a geriatric psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine who worked with the poll team.
Other surveys have found that teens and young adults have suffered the worst mental health effects from the pandemic: Almost half — 47 percent — of adults ages 18 to 29 reported symptoms of anxiety in the previous seven days, for instance, in a February Household Pulse Survey by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau. About 25 percent of people in their 60s did so.
And a November 2020 AARP national phone survey of about 1,500 adults regarding their health and access to care found that the percentage of respondents reporting high stress decreased with increasing age: Those in their 40s were more likely (38 percent) to be highly stressed than those in their 50s (33 percent) or 60s (18 percent). Only 13 percent of those over 70 reported high stress levels.