Health & Wellness

Researching the Pandemic’s Effect on Psychological Health

A new study will explore how older adults are coping with the COVID-19 crisis


A long-term Canadian study of aging will be surveying its participants much more often in an effort to better understand how COVID-19 is affecting the physical and psychological well-being of older adults.

More than 51,000 Canadians over 45 are participants in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), which until very recently has stuck to surveying participants once every three years. For the next six months, however, the CLSA COVID-19 study will ask participants to take part in weekly and monthly surveys online or over the phone.

“This study is being done to understand why some people develop an infection while others don’t, and why some people have severe symptoms while others experience only mild symptoms,” Dr. Parminder Raina, the scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and the CLSA’s lead investigator, said in a video to study participants.

Apart from the usual questions about each person’s health, the surveys will ask about the extent to which each person is practising social distancing, handwashing frequency, career impacts, as well as travel history. Researchers also hope to get a sense of what coping strategies help most during the pandemic, how it’s affecting people’s access to health services, and to what degree it’s worsening existing health problems or creating new ones.

“The answers to these questions are key to informing our health interventions now and in the near future,” Raina said.

The research will be supported by a national team that includes researchers from McMaster, McGill, and Dalhousie universities.

“When we learn more about COVID-19 through the CLSA, about the way it spreads, whether there is post-infection immunity, why some are more vulnerable than others, it will be because we, to paraphrase Isaac Newton, have stood on the shoulders of our participants who are responding and eager to help us all to see farther,” explained Christina Wolfson, another lead investigator on the study and a professor in McGill’s department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health.

Photo: iStock/lucigerma.