Soc Sci Med. 2022 May 13;305:115031. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115031. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The COVID19 pandemic has caused a mental health crisis worldwide, which may have different age-specific impacts, partly due to age-related differences in resilience and coping. The purposes of this study were to 1) identify disparities in mental distress, perceived adversities, resilience, and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic among four age groups (18-34, 35-49, 50-64, and ≥65); 2) assess the age-moderated time effect on mental distress, and 3) estimate the effects of perceived adversities on mental distress as moderated by age, resilience and coping.
METHODS: Data were drawn from a longitudinal survey of a nationally representative sample (n = 7830) administered during the pandemic. Weighted mean of mental distress and adversities (perceived loneliness, perceived stress, and perceived risk), resilience, and coping were compared among different age groups. Hierarchical random-effects models were used to assess the moderated effects of adversities on mental distress.
RESULTS: The youngest age group (18-34) reported the highest mental distress at baseline with the mean (standard error) as 2.70 (0.12), which showed an incremental improvement with age (2.27 (0.10), 1.88 (0.08), 1.29 (0.07) for 35-49, 50-64, and ≥65 groups respectively). The older age groups reported lower levels of loneliness and perceived stress, higher perceived risk, greater resilience, and more relaxation coping (ps < .001). Model results showed that mental distress declined slightly over time, and the downward trend was moderated by age group. Perceived adversities, alcohol, and social coping were positively,whereas resilience and relaxation were negatively associated with mental distress. Resilience and age group moderated the slope of each adversity on mental distress.
CONCLUSIONS: The youngest age group appeared to be most vulnerable during the pandemic. Mental health interventions may provide resilience training to combat everyday adversities for the vulnerable individuals and empower them to achieve personal growth that challenges age boundaries.