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COVID and Mental Health Among Older Adults

A look at how older adults are managing the emotional impact of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative emotional impact on many of us, including a majority of adults ages 50-plus. This AARP study focuses on the pandemic's emotional impact on older adults’ emotional well-being and highlights a bigger issue: Although experiencing the pandemic is associatied with a decline in older adults' emotional well-being, few seek help from a mental health professional.

spinner image Working from Home and Feeling Stressed

When asked about mental health, most adults ages 50-plus say their mental health is very good. However, when asked about specific emotional health measures, half say they have been bothered with anxiety and/or having little interest or pleasure in doing things, and a third say they have been feeling depressed.

Furthermore, although the vast majority of older adults say they have experienced a decline in their emotional well-being (increased anxiety, depression, worry, etc.), only one in eight says they have sought help from a mental health professional.

This disconnect between experiencing a decline in emotional well-being and the likelihood of seeking help from a mental health provider may suggest that older adults don't associate emotional well-being with the term “mental health.”

While it is understandable that older adults would see a decline in mental health or emotional well-being during these trying times, this is not a normal part of aging. To combat possible hesitation on the part of older adults, access to mental health treatment must  be easy, seamless, and normalized. Ensuring that mental health and emotional well-being are addressed during all medical visits is an invaluable step toward ensuring older adults receive comprehensive care.


The 2021 AARP COVID and Emotional Well-Being Survey was conducted online from April 22-26, 2021 with a total sample of 1,016 adults ages 50-plus. This national survey was conducted using NORC at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak 50+ Omnibus probability-based sample. AmeriSpeak is designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. All data are weighted by age, gender, and race according to the most recent Census population statistics. 

The 2021 AARP Healthy Living During the Pandemic Qualitative Study was conducted from April 19 to May 4, 2021 by ANR Marketing Research Consultants. The 20 in-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted by telephone.

For more information, please contact Cheryl Lampkin at For media inquiries, please contact