THE PSYCHOSOCIAL IMPACTS OF SOCIAL ISOLATION CAUSED BY PUBLIC HEALTH STRATEGIES AS A PREVENTATIVE MEASURE OF THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19) ON ELDERLY ADULTS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
by Zoe Atherton
Abstract – An The objective of this systematic review was to investigate the psychosocial impacts of social isolation caused by public health strategies as a preventative measure of the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 on elderly adults. This research was conducted based on the mental health impact of previous pandemics including SARS and MERS, which showed significant effects, namely the increase in the suicide rate in Hong Kong during the SARS pandemic. The geriatric population was labeled as a “group at risk”, due to knowledge of previous public health crises as well as predisposing risk factors of increased age such as lower immunity and other affiliated comorbidities such as chronic pulmonary and cardiac conditions, diabetes, and hypertension, increasing the severity of SARS- CoV-2. Results have displayed that while being crucial to control the spread of the coronavirus 2019 disease, physical distancing and isolation measures taken by authorities internationally, especially focusing on groups at risk, can result in social isolation and loneliness. These primary psychosocial impacts cause serious secondary mental health impacts including depression, anxiety, and suicide. A distinct association between social isolation and loneliness with depressive symptoms was established, where being isolated and/or lonely displayed higher depression scores. Loneliness, social disconnectedness and not wanting to be a burden to relatives were associated with the increase in suicide rates, as projected in the previous epidemic SARS in 2003. This paper calls upon the action of communities, and policymakers in assisting the coping of older adults to solve a worldwide problem that needs to be addressed.