Irish researchers investigating the impact of the pandemic on the over 70s found that two-fifths of participants said their mental health worsened as result of cocooning.
Advising the older generation to stay at home has been an important part of the fight against Covid-19, with an overall aim of preventing transmission.
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital examined trends in physical and mental health, access to healthcare services and attitudes to Covid-19 in people aged 70 years or more who did not contract Covid-19.
Results showed that almost 40 per cent of respondents said their mental health was worse or much worse since the start of cocooning, while 57 per cent reported feeling lonely at least some of the time while cocooning.
Participants were almost twice as likely to report feelings of loneliness if they lived alone. Over 40 per cent said their physical health declined since cocooning and one in five reported not leaving their house at all since being advised to cocoon.
However, more than 60 per cent agreed with the Government advice regarding cocooning while one quarter said they disagreed.
The findings were published in the January 2021 edition of the Quarterly Journal of Medicine (QJM).
Dr Robert Briggs, Medical Gerontology, Trinity College and Consultant Geriatrician, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, and senior author of the study, said the study highlighted the potential secondary impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on older people.
“While cocooning is important and reduces the likelihood of older people becoming unwell with Covid-19, there may be important adverse impacts on the health of those who cocoon that also need to be addressed,” he said.
“Given the possibility of further waves of Covid-19, with the likelihood of ongoing restrictions despite the rollout of vaccines, clear policies and advice for older people around strategies to maintain social engagement, manage loneliness and continue physical activity should be a priority.’’
The study was carried out from October to December 2020.