Results from the FINGER study show the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on older adults in Finland

How have social distancing measures affected older individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic? Recent research led by Professor Miia Kivipelto’s team provides some important insights – there were several negative effects but at the same time many lifestyles and behaviours did not substantially change during the first wave of the pandemic in Finland, and some even improved.  

A postal survey (the WW-FINGERS SARS-CoV-2 Survey) was developed by the WW-FINGERS network and sent to older individuals (average age 78 years) living in Finland who are currently part of the FINGER trial (Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability).

The majority of individuals (three quarters) adopted some form of distancing practices during the first months of the pandemic and several pandemic-related changes were reported in lifestyle and health:

  • 34% reported a decrease in physical activity. 
  • Many individuals had less contact with friends (55%) and family (31%).
  • 21% reported more feelings of loneliness.
  • 15% felt that their memory had been getting worse during the pandemic.
  • Older people and those living alone were more susceptible to negative changes. 
  • Cancellations in dental healthcare (43%), home aid (30%), and rehabilitative services (53%) were common.

However, several positive aspects were found: 

  • Many individuals were able to use digital tools to keep in contact with family and friends. 
  • A large proportion of people were able to keep up healthy eating habits (with many increasing their vegetable and fruit consumption).
  • In general, self-rated health and quality of life remained stable.

“As the pandemic is ongoing, it is important to identify factors that may help older individuals to maintain healthy lifestyles during lockdowns and quarantine and to follow-up these individuals to see how they are coping with the 2nd wave of the pandemic. Can we identify individuals who need more support during the pandemic, such as those living alone, to target them for interventions to support them?” says Professor Kivipelto, the principal investigator of the FINGER trial and the founder of the FINGERS Brain Health Institute.

The article can be found here, alongside a collection of research articles of a similar theme.

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