Online engagement, resilience, and loneliness among older people during the COVID-19 pandemic

TitleOnline engagement, resilience, and loneliness among older people during the COVID-19 pandemic
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsZhang, K, Burr, JA, Mutchler, JE, Lu, J
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
ISSN Number0277-9536
KeywordsCOVID-19, Digital engagement, Internet, Loneliness, Posttraumatic growth, Resilience

Background and objectives The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the public health concerns of social isolation and loneliness for older people who are vulnerable due to their health conditions and more restrictive social measures. However studies revealed that many older adults demonstrated high resilience and remained emotionally stable during the pandemic, particularly those who had a broad engagement with online technology that could compensate for their isolation. Yet, little empirical research has examined explicitly the association between online engagement and loneliness among older adults, and the role resilience played in this relationship during the pandemic. This study contributed to the literature by addressing these research gaps. Research design and methods This study investigated the relationships between online engagement (sum of involvement in 31 online activities), resilience (sum of positive experiences and personal growth during COVID-19) and loneliness (mean of 11-items from the revised version of the UCLA loneliness scale) among community-dwelling older people (aged 60+), using national survey data from the 2020 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) collected during the COVID-19 pandemic (N = 3,552). Results and conclusion Online engagement was negatively associated with levels of loneliness (β = -0.080, 95% CI [-0.118, -0.047]), and this association was partially mediated by levels of resilience (β = -0.023, 95% CI [-0.031, -0.016]. The findings suggested that a broad integration of online technology into daily-life may have helped older people combat loneliness during the pandemic, and resilience could be one important mechanism that linked this association.

Citation KeyZHANG2023116026