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The network of psychosocial health in middle-aged and older adults during the first COVID-19 lockdown

Publication year 2022
Published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Authors Maud De Feijter, Desi Kocevska, T.F. Blanken, Isabelle F van der Velpen, M Arfan Ikram, Annemarie I Luik

PURPOSE: Psychosocial health problems, such as social isolation, loneliness, depression and anxiety, have gained attention during the COVID-19 pandemic and are commonly co-occurring. We investigated the network of psychosocial health constructs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: This study included 4553 participants (mean age: 68.6 ± 11.2 years, 56% women) from the prospective Rotterdam Study, who filled out a questionnaire between April and July 2020, the time of the first COVID-19 wave in the Netherlands. Psychosocial health constructs included were depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale), anxiety symptoms (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale), loneliness (University of California, Los Angeles loneliness scale), social connectedness (five items) and pandemic-related worry (five items). We estimated mixed graphical models to assess the network of items of these constructs and whether age and sex affected the network structure.

RESULTS: Within the network of psychosocial constructs, a higher depressive symptoms score was particularly associated with items of loneliness and social connectedness, whereas overall anxiety was particularly associated with items of pandemic-related worry. Between people from different sex and age, the network structure significantly altered.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that within the same network of psychosocial health constructs, depressive symptom score is particularly associated with loneliness and social connectedness, whereas anxiety symptom score is associated with pandemic-related worry during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Our results support that psychosocial constructs should be considered in conjunction with one another in prevention and treatment efforts in clinical care, and that these efforts need to be tailored to specific demographic groups.

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