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Having Dementia and Reduction in Social Participation Are associated with Increased Depression and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Findings from a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports demonstrate an increased risk of depression and anxiety during the pandemic period among US older adults with dementia

Tokyo, Japan - An increased risk of depression and anxiety among US older adults with dementia and poor activity participation has been demonstrated through an analysis of data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a nationally representative population-based study.

These findings were reached by a team of researchers from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Exploratory Oncology Research and Clinical Trial Center in National Cancer Center, and Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, Japan. This study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports 7(1).

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has posed challenges to the health and lives of older adults with dementia. Social measures such as strict physical distancing to protect vulnerable groups, including older adults with dementia, increase the risk of social isolation among them.

Participation in meaningful activities provides a sense of continuity, quality of life, and self-identity to people with dementia. Physical distancing measures during the pandemic could impede activity participation and lead to deterioration of mental well-being. Quantitative data show that people with dementia experienced worsening mental health following the first lockdown and the second wave of the pandemic. However, few studies included older adults without dementia as a control group and information on the level of activity participation.

The team analyzed data from 4,548 community-dwelling older adult participants of two or more NHATS survey rounds between 2018 and 2021. The main objective of the study was to investigate the longitudinal association between activity participation and mental health in individuals with dementia during the pandemic.

The findings
Multivariable binomial logistic regression analyses revealed an increased risk of depressive symptoms and anxiety among older adults with dementia before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall level of depressive symptoms increased between 2019 and 2020 because of the onset of the pandemic and lifestyle changes caused by several restrictions. Poor activity participation was also associated with a high risk of depressive symptoms and anxiety. Furthermore, the association between dementia and worse mental health outcomes remained significant even after controlling for activity participation. However, there was no interaction effect between dementia and year of follow-up for depressive symptoms and anxiety.

Visual_Having Dementia and Reduction in Social Participation Are associated with Increased Depression and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Balancing infection management and dementia care
The results highlight that mental health deterioration was more prominent during the pandemic onset than in other one-year periods investigated and that widespread mental health challenges exist in the community-dwelling population. Older adults with dementia may experience chronic psychological distress because of their dependence to care in daily life stimulated by rapid lifestyle changes and reduced social contact in 2020. In addition, they may be more vulnerable to reduced contact than individuals without dementia since loneliness and social isolation are linked to an increased risk of dementia. Dementia care and support should address emotional and social needs using accessible means under long-term restrictions.


Media Contact

Miharu Nakanishi
Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine
+81 22 717 8179

Reference article
“Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults with Dementia During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” by Miharu Nakanishi, Asao Ogawa, Mai Sakai, Hatsumi Yoshii, Mitsuhiro Miyashita, Syudo Yamasaki, and Atsushi Nishida (https://doi.org/10.3233/ADR-230019), published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, Volume 7, Issue 1 (April 2023) by IOS Press. This article is openly available at https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease-reports/adr230019.

About the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports (JADR)
The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports is an Open Access international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment and psychology of Alzheimer's disease. The journal publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, hypotheses, and case reports. It is dedicated to providing an open forum for original research that will expedite our fundamental understanding of Alzheimer's disease. iospress.com/jad-reports

About IOS Press
IOS Press is an independent international scientific, technical, medical (STM) publishing house established in 1987 in Amsterdam. We produce around 90 journals and 70 books annually in a broad range of subject categories, primarily specializing in health and life sciences (including neurosciences, medical informatics, cancer research, and rehabilitation) and computer sciences (including artificial intelligence, data science, and semantic web). In addition, we offer specialized services that support scientific advancement. iospress.com