The COVID-19 pandemic has left older adults around the world bereaved by the sudden death of relatives and friends. We examine if COVID-19 bereavement corresponds with older adults’ reporting depression in 27 countries, and test for variation by gender and country context.
We analyze SHARE COVID-19 data collected between June-August 2020 from N=51,383 older adults (age 50–104) living in 27 countries, of whom 1,363 reported the death of a relative or friend from COVID-19. We estimate pooled-multilevel logit regression models to examine if COVID-19 bereavement was associated with self-reported depression and worsening depression, and we test whether national COVID-19 mortality rates moderate these assocations.
COVID-19 bereavement is associated with significantly higher probabilities of both reporting depression and reporting worsened depression among older adults. Net of one’s own personal loss, living in a country with the highest COVID-19 mortality rate is associated with women’s reports of worsened depression but not men’s. However, the country’s COVID-19 mortality rate does not moderate associations between COVID-19 bereavement and depression.
COVID-19 deaths have lingering mental health implications for surviving older adults. Even as the collective toll of the crisis is apparent, bereaved older adults are in particular need of mental health support.