Social networks as a protective factor for worsened self-perceived health status related to self-perceived changes in loneliness and health conditions in adults aged 50+ during the COVID-19 outbreak

Shay Musbat, Inbal Reuveni, Racheli Magnezi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has emerged as a global pandemic, leading millions of people to change their lifestyles, especially older individuals who are the most at-risk population. Social isolation, the main preventive action to slow the pandemic's spread, reduced and drastically limited social connections, increasing older individuals' loneliness and stress, and worsening their health. We examined the connection between self-perceived changes in loneliness, the existence and type of social contact (face-to-face/electronic), and health conditions on self-perceived changes in health status during the outbreak, analyzing 51,778 individuals aged 50 plus from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) database Wave 8 beta (June–August 2020). We found that the odds for worsened self-perceived health status were 249% higher among individuals who reported increased loneliness compared to the non-increase group and were lower in individuals with face-to-face contact (31%) or electronic contact (54%) during the outbreak. In addition, the odds for worsened self-perceived health status were higher for individuals with hypertension (17%), cancer (19%), chronic lung disease (25%), heart problems (27%), and other illnesses (32%). Based on the results obtained, electronic contact has shown a stronger connection as a protective factor for worsened self-perceived health since the outbreak compared to face-to-face interactions. Thus, adopting a policy that encourages the usage of electronic communications could reduce the burden on the healthcare system, particularly during pandemics, while improving patient health outcomes and minimizing pandemic-related health risks. This approach is especially important for older individuals, for whom any departure from home can cause an additional risk of exposure to the virus.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20529
JournalHeliyon
Volume9
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

Keywords

  • Aging
  • COVID-19
  • Electronic communication
  • Europe
  • Loneliness
  • Self-perceived health
  • Social networks

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