Depression affected 5.7% of people aged 60 years and over prior to the pandemic and has increased by approximately 28%. The aim of this study is to identify and describe factors associated with depressive symptoms, the diagnostic assessment instruments and interventions used to evaluate and treat depression in adults aged 60 years and older since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four electronic databases were systematically searched to identify eligible studies published since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 832 articles were screened, of which 53 met the inclusion criteria.
Factors contributing to depressive symptoms in older adults prior to the pandemic were grouped into the following categories: sociodemographic characteristics (i.e., being female); loneliness and weak social support; limitations in daily functioning, physical activity and neurocognitive impairment; and clinical factors. The following groups of factors directly related to the pandemic were found: stress-related factors and feelings or worries related to the pandemic; information access (e.g., receiving news about COVID-19 through the media); factors directly related to COVID-19 (e.g., having infected acquaintances); and factors related to the measures that were taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., confinement measures). The most frequently used instrument to assess depressive symptoms was the Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form (GDS-SF). Four studies implemented interventions during the pandemic that led to significant reductions in depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness.
Improved understanding of pandemic-associated risk factors for depression can inform person-cantered care. It is important continued mental healthcare for depression for older adults throughout crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote delivery of mental healthcare represents an important alternative during such times. It is crucial to address depression in older adults (which often causes disability), since the pandemic situation has increased depressive symptoms in this population.