According to a recent prospective study published in the journal Respiratory Medicine, during the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults with asthma had greater rates of first-time and recurrent depression, with factors such as loneliness, family conflict, and difficulty gaining access to resources and healthcare as contributing causes.

The researchers compiled and reviewed data from four waves, which were designated as Baseline (2011-2015), Follow-up 1 (2015-2018), COVID Spring 2020, and COVID Autumn 2020), of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging’s comprehensive cohort (n = 2,047 with asthma. The average age was 61.1 years, and the study population included 59.8% women. The CLSA is a national study of Canadian residents aged between 45 and 85 years from 2011 to 2015 across seven provinces. The CLSA also gathered data about COVID-19, either online or by telephone, with all CLSA respondents who consented to participate.

The researchers sought to identify factors correlated with augmented risk of depression during COVID-19. The primary outcome was a positive screen for depression based on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D-10) during autumn 2020. The researchers also performed bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses.

The researchers wrote, “We hypothesize that older adults with asthma are vulnerable to incident and recurrent depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also hypothesize those with low socioeconomic status are more vulnerable to depression than their peers with higher socioeconomic status due to the financial strain that COVID-19 has placed on many low-income individuals.”

The results revealed that among older adults with asthma without a history of depression before the pandemic (n = 1,247), an estimated one in seven individuals representing 13.5% developed depression for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among those with a history of depression (n = 770), approximately one in two individuals representing 48.6% experienced a recurrence of depression, and the risk of incident depression and recurrent depression was greater among those who reported feeling lonely, those experiencing family conflict during the pandemic, and those individuals who had trouble accessing healthcare resources during the pandemic.

The results also indicated an augmented risk of depression among first-time depression patients who had challenges retrieving resources such as food or supplies and/or those who had a loss of income. The authors noted that a greater risk of recurrent depression was observed in those individuals with functional limitations. Findings revealed that a greater risk of recurrent depression was also observed among individuals with asthma who reported participating in few or no religious activities such as prayer at home compared with those who often participated in religious activities at home.

“As life returns to ‘normal’ through widespread vaccination and the removal of physical distancing limitations, it is important to consider the potential longstanding mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide care to those who may be vulnerable to adverse mental health outcomes beyond the pandemic,” the authors concluded.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

« Click here to return to COVID-19 update.