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Publication Detail
It makes you realise your own mortality: A qualitative study on mental health of older adults in the UK during COVID-19


Older adults have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with high fatalities and health complications reported. Adults over the age of 70 in the UK were advised to self-isolate for 3 months early during the pandemic and it is unclear which factors influenced their experiences during this time.


The aim of this qualitative study was to explore factors that threatened and protected the wellbeing of older adults living in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.


We undertook semi-structured interviews with 20 adults aged over 70. Purposive sampling methods were used to increase diversity within the group. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.


Participants were aged 72-93, 9 women and 11 men, 80% were White British, 40% lived alone. We identified 2 superordinate themes, including (1) Threats to wellbeing: mortality concerns, grief and loss of normal life, restricted health service access, COVID-19 concerns, and restricted access to activities that protect wellbeing. (2) Factors protective of wellbeing: slower pace of life, maintaining routine, socialising, and use of past coping skills. Many participants drew on their resilience and life experience to self-manage fear and uncertainty associated with the pandemic, using their time during lockdown to reflect or organise end-of-life affairs.


This study provides evidence that while older adults experienced challenges, many were resilient against COVID-19 restrictions despite early concerns of mental health consequences. Our findings highlight the importance of maintaining access to essentials to promote feelings of normality and social support to help reduce uncertainty in times of pandemics.
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