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Inter- and intragenerational relationships are known to be important in maintaining the wellbeing of older people. A key aspect of these relationships is the exchange of both emotional and instrumental social support. However, relatively little is known about how this exchange of support changes in the context of widespread disruption. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to examine how older people's family relationships are impacted by such social change. The present qualitative study explores how older people in the United Kingdom experienced changes in inter- and intragenerational support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants (N = 33) were recruited through a large-scale nationally representative survey (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/psychology-consortium-covid19). We asked how life had been pre-pandemic, how they experienced the first national lockdown and what the future might hold in store. The data were analysed using constructivist grounded theory. This paper focuses on the importance of family relationships and how they changed as a consequence of the pandemic. We found that the family support system had been interrupted, that there were changes in the methods of support and that feelings of belonging were challenged. We argue that families were brought into disequilibrium through changes in the exchange of inter- and intragenerational support. The important role of grandchildren for older adults was striking and challenged by the pandemic. The significance of social connectedness and support within the family had not changed during the pandemic, but it could no longer be lived in the same way. The desire to be close to family members and to support them conflicted with the risk of pandemic infection. Our study found support for the COVID-19 Social Connectivity Paradox: the need for social connectedness whilst maintaining social distance. This challenged family equilibrium, wellbeing and quality of life in older people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented global crisis, necessitating drastic changes to living conditions, social life, personal freedom and economic activity. No study has yet examined the presence of psychiatric symptoms in the UK population under similar conditions.
We investigated the prevalence of COVID-19-related anxiety, generalised anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms in the UK population during an early phase of the pandemic, and estimated associations with variables likely to influence these symptoms.
Between 23 and 28 March 2020, a quota sample of 2025 UK adults aged 18 years and older, stratified by age, gender and household income, was recruited by online survey company Qualtrics. Participants completed standardised measures of depression, generalised anxiety and trauma symptoms relating to the pandemic. Bivariate and multivariate associations were calculated for demographic and health-related variables.
Higher levels of anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms were reported compared with previous population studies, but not dramatically so. Anxiety or depression and trauma symptoms were predicted by young age, presence of children in the home, and high estimates of personal risk. Anxiety and depression were also predicted by low income, loss of income and pre-existing health conditions in self and others. Specific anxiety about COVID-19 was greater in older participants.
This study showed a modest increase in the prevalence of mental health problems in the early stages of the pandemic, and these problems were predicted by several specific COVID-related variables. Further similar surveys, particularly of those with children at home, are required as the pandemic progresses.
The paper draws together two conceptualisations of resilience in bereavement and widowhood that were developed by Bonanno (2004) and Moore and Stratton (2003), both using North American data. This paper has re-examined data from two United Kingdom studies of widowerhood. Among an aggregate sample of 60 widowers, 38 per cent showed resilience in the face of the exacting challenges that late-life widowhood brings. Resilient men were seen as having a positively viewed biography, were participating in relationships and activities, and had returned to a life that had meaning and brought satisfaction. Four broad categories among the resilient widowers were identified. The first had been resilient consistently throughout their widowhood. The second group achieved resilience gradually, and the third following a turning point. Finally, a small group of men demonstrated both gradual and turning point pathways towards resilience. Personal characteristics had been particularly influential for those in the first group, while for the last group, social support had made an important contribution to achieving resilience and had two forms: informal and formal. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the differentiation of resilience for adaptation to bereavement amongst older men.
Background. Evidence for the effects of marital status and marital status change on physical health is equivocal.
Method. Structural equation models examined whether marital status predicted physical health. Six groups were examined simultaneously: married (M); widowed (W); divorced (D); never married (NM); newly widowed (NW); and newly divorced (ND). There were four annual measures (T1–T4). Both NW and ND were married at T1, but had lost their partners by T2. Four physical health variables were examined: Problems, Limitations, Service use, and Self-rated health (SRH). Age and gender were included.
Results. Previous health predicted future for all measures and for all groups. However, the specific strengths and time-courses varied between marital status groups and between health measures. The most marked patterns were associated with marital status change. Service use was influenced most strongly by NW, whilst Limitations was influenced by ND. Problems distinguished NW and ND from stable marital status groups but also from each other. SRH was influenced by W and not by recent marital status change. The effects of age and gender were modest and restricted to specific health variables and specific marital statuses.
Conclusions. The results demonstrate that marital status and marital status change, in particular, influence health longitudinally. The impact of a change to divorced or to widowed status is not the same. No two health variables responded in the same way, suggesting that marital status has a differential effect on health.
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