COVID-19 Hurts the Brain Health of Older People

A recent study found that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a long-lasting impact on the brain health of people aged 50 and older. It made their thinking abilities decline faster, even if they didn’t get sick with the virus. This happened during the first year of the pandemic, from March 2020 to February 2021, and it continued into 2021 and 2022, long after the lockdowns started.

The Biggest Study of Its Kind

This research, done by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, is the largest one of its kind. It connects the conditions of the pandemic and the big changes in how people lived because of lockdowns and COVID-19 to the lasting decline in how older people think. This study was published in a journal called Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Things Making Thinking Slower

The speed-up of how fast people’s thinking gets worse has been because of a lot of things since COVID-19 began. Some of these things include feeling lonely and sad, not moving around as much, drinking more alcohol, and the effects of the virus itself. The study looked at information from 3,142 people aged 50 to 90 in the UK. They checked how well these folks remembered things in the short term and how they handled tricky tasks.

Important Discoveries and Concerns

The study discovered that thinking abilities got worse faster during the first year of the pandemic, especially for those who were already having some trouble with their thinking before COVID-19. The researchers found that everyone in the study had more than a 50% bigger decline in their ability to remember things and do complex tasks.

Even though this study couldn’t say for sure why these changes happened, it did show that people became sadder and lonelier, moved around less, drank more alcohol, and exercised less during COVID-19. These things are already known to have a big impact on people’s mental health and the way they live.

What It All Means and What Comes Next

The study shows that we need to pay attention to these changes in how people live and try to help them. We can make changes to how we live to make our brains stay healthier. It’s also important to know that the effects of COVID-19 can last a long time and be hard on older people, especially those who already had some trouble with their thinking.

To sum it up, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected people’s physical health but also their thinking abilities. We need to think about how to help people stay mentally healthy during tough times like these and be ready for the future. Understanding how the pandemic has affected our brains is a big step in the right direction.