Older adults with pre-existing major depressive disorders had no increase in depression and anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic and also showed resilience to the stress of physical distancing and isolation, according to a new study.

In the study, published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,  researchers conducted interviews with the participants, all of whom were over the age of 60, with an average age of 69, during the first two months of the pandemic.

Using two screening assessments of depression and anxiety, PHQ-9 and PROMIS, researchers found no changes in the participants' depression, anxiety or suicidality scores before and during the pandemic. 

Older adults with depression were resilient during the pandemic

"We thought they would be more vulnerable to the stress of Covid because they are, by CDC definition, the most vulnerable population," said Helen Lavretsky, MD, a professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "But what we learned is that older adults with depression can be resilient. They told use that coping with chronic depression taught them to be resilient"

The study also found that participants were more concerned about the risk of contracting the virus than the risks of isolation and while all maintained physical distance, most did not feel socially isolated and were using virtual technology to connect with friends and family.

Many participants did say that their quality of life was lower, and they worried their mental health would suffer with continued physical distancing.

The study identified several self-care and coping strategies used by the participants, which included maintaining regular schedules; distracting themselves from negative emotions with hobbies, chores, work or exercise; and using mindfulness to focus on immediate surroundings and needs without thinking beyond the present.