Experiencing and Forecasting COVID-19 Daily Stress on Mental Health Reactivity Across Age and Race

This article was originally published here

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2021 Dec 5:gbab197. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbab197. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: This study systematically evaluates age and race differences in mental health symptoms as they unfold microlongitudinally during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic with a focus on within-person reactivity to forecasting and experiencing COVID-19 stress.

METHOD: A daily diary approach was used to examine predictors of daily anxiety and depressive symptoms among 526 adults (White [54%] and Black American [46%]) aged 21-79. A total of 3,605 online diaries were collected for 21 consecutive days between October and November, 2020. In addition to mental health symptoms, participants reported forecasted (next 24 h) stress as well as experienced (past 24 h) stress related to COVID-19.

RESULTS: Patterns of reactivity to forecasted and experienced COVID-19 stress depended on age and race. White older adults displayed greater reactivity to COVID-19-related stress than White younger adults, but the effects of COVID-19-related stress were consistently detrimental for the daily anxiety of Black Americans, regardless of age. For Black Americans, age was less negatively associated with depressive symptoms than for White Americans. Increases in experienced COVID-19 stress were also more strongly associated with increases in depressive symptoms for Black Americans relative to White participants.

DISCUSSION: This study moves beyond cross-sectional, descriptive work within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasizes the dynamic nature of within-person reactivity patterns that differ by age and race. Although White older adults experienced an increase in daily anxiety when forecasting COVID-19 stress, the co-occurring pandemic of systemic racism may be more powerful than age-related vulnerabilities for Black adults.

PMID:34865018 | DOI:10.1093/geronb/gbab197