Worsened Ability to Engage in Social and Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Older Adults’ Mental Health: Longitudinal Analysis From the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Abstract Background and Objectives Restrictions implemented to mitigate the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) affected older adults’ ability to engage in social and physical activities. We examined mental health outcomes of older adults reporting worsened ability to be socially and physically active during the pandemic. Research Design and Methods Using logistic regression, we examined the relationship between positive screen for depression (10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies—Depression Scale) or anxiety (7-item Generalized Anxiety Scale) at the end of 2020 and worsened ability to engage in social and physical activity during the first 6–9 months of the pandemic among older adults in Canada. Interactions between ability to participate in social and physical activity and social participation pre-COVID (2015–2018) and physical activity were also examined. We analyzed data collected before and during the COVID pandemic from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, a nationally representative longitudinal cohort: pre-pandemic (2015–2018), COVID-Baseline survey (April to May 2020), and COVID-Exit survey (September to December 2020). Results Of the 24,108 participants who completed the COVID-Exit survey, 21.96% (n = 5,219) screened positively for depression and 5.04% (n = 1,132) for anxiety. Worsened ability to participate in social and physical activity was associated with depression (odds ratio [OR] = 1.85 [95% confidence interval {CI} 1.67–2.04]; OR = 2.46 [95% CI 2.25–2.69]), respectively, and anxiety (OR = 1.66 [95% CI 1.37–2.02] and OR = 1.96 [95% CI 1.68–2.30]). Fully adjusted interaction models identified a buffering effect of social participation and the ability to participate in physical activity on depression (χ2 [1] = 8.86, p = .003 for interaction term). Discussion and Implications Older adults reporting worsened ability to participate in social and physical activities during the COVID-19 pandemic had poorer mental health outcomes than those whose ability remained the same or improved. These findings highlight the importance of fostering social and physical activity resources to mitigate the negative mental health impacts of future pandemics or other major life stressors that may affect the mental health of older adults.


  • Cosco, Theodore D
  • Wister, Andrew
  • Best, John R
  • Riadi, Indira
  • Kervin, Lucy
  • Hopper, Shawna
  • Basta, Nicole E
  • Wolfson, Christina
  • Kirkland, Susan A
  • Griffith, Lauren
  • McMillani, Jacqueline M
  • Raina, Parminder

publication date

  • September 1, 2023