Understanding the Consequences of the COVID19 Lockdown for Older People

Understanding the Consequences of the COVID19 Lockdown for Older People


COVID-19 puts older people in harm’s way, not just from the virus itself, but also from severe ‘lockdown’ measures to curb the epidemic. There are widespread concerns that older persons with diabetes and cancer were unable to attain medical care they needed. Others report social isolation from confinement, triggering depressions and suicides. But just how severe were these consequences for older persons?
A new epidemiological study will attempt to quantify the real health impacts of Italy’s COVID-19 lockdown measures on older people. It will collect new data from Italy’s Lombardy region, one of the first – and worst – hit regions in Europe, accounting for >50% of all COVID-19 deaths in Italy.
“Healthy ageing in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic: impact evaluation of COVID-19 containment measures on physical, mental and social wellbeing of elder and fragile and populations” is being led by Gianluca Serafini, Associate Professor at the University of Genoa, Italy working with a team of 11 academics and doctors in Italy including Bocconi University’s David Stuckler, Full Professor of Policy Analysis and Public Management at the Department of Social and Political Sciences and Simone Ghislandi, Associate Professor at the Department of Social and Political Sciences.
“How to protect the weak during epidemics is one of Europe’s biggest challenges. Lockdown was a necessary evil. To better prepare for the future, we must urgently understand the full consequences these policies, for better and for worse,” said Professor Stuckler.
The study will generate evidence-based recommendations for how to mitigate potential harms to older persons while ‘shielding’ them from COVID. To do so the study will look in-depth at the effects of the pandemic and related public health measures on mental health, behaviors and lifestyles on the elderly and chronic patients.
The team will create a large cross-sectional survey on the population aged 65 or over in the Lombardy Italian region and carry out an estimated 3,000 phone interviews over a period of three months, supported by DOXA, a partner in Italy of the Worldwide Independent Network and the Gallup International Association, one of the most important Italian market and social research institutes. It will also have access to administrative data from the Lombardy Regional Health Service.
The questionnaire will include detailed sections on nutrition, dietary habits, smoking habit, alcohol consumption, and physical activity to try to understand the impact of the COVID-19 emergency on all these habits.
The elderly and chronically ill patients may benefit from such protective actions like regular telephonic counselling sessions, contact with family, appropriate and updated information, caring for the general medical and psychological needs.
“We are really convinced that the appropriate management of the elderly and chronic patients represents a major challenge in the actual period of COVID-19 outbreak and social crisis,” said Professor Ghislandi.
Bocconi is also participating in a second and overlapping study led by Silvano Gallus at Milan’s Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, using the same sample population and questions. This second study attempts to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on the care of patients with chronic pre-existing conditions, in order gauge the effect on regional health spending.

by Jennifer Clark


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