Older people better equipped, mentally, for pandemics

How our mental health has been affected by COVID-19 depends on age – according to a new global consumer survey.

The findings are based on an online survey of 13,053 consumers worldwide conducted by FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence & Course5 Intelligence, commissioned by Fitbit.

In Sweden, the older part of the population has fared significantly better than the younger one, in terms of mental well-being.

Although the elderly have in many ways been severely affected by COVID-19, such as the risk group for serious illness, deaths and stricter restrictions, new research shows that mental resistance to negative stresses seems to rise with age. The older we are, the more durable the psyche seems to be. In Sweden, there are 40% between the ages of 55+ and 18-24.

In Sweden, one in three 18-34 years experience that COVID-19 has impaired their mental health. Among the older part of the population (55+), just under a fifth (34% in the 18-34 vs 19% age group among 55+) said they felt completely unaffected by COVID-19, compared to 26% in the 18-24 group.

Older people are more positive about themselves. The study also shows data on our attitude towards ourselves, whether we have a positive attitude or negative. Even in this regard, the upper layer of the population has a clear upper hand. Among respondents 55+, one third (31%) say they have a positive internal dialogue, compared to a fifth of Sweden's young population having a negative attitude towards themselves. Researchers in the subject of positive psychology argue that these answers are interrelated. In addition to the study, Fitbit has turned to Ilona Boniwell, a leading researcher in the field. 

"A positive attitude towards ourselves often brings with it a higher threshold for external stresses, compared to how an ever-disparaging internal dialogue can generate a weaker "immune system" against external negative stresses, such as a pandemic. A positive mindset strengthens self-esteem and helps us deal with stress and challenges in everyday life," commented Ilona Boniwell, Professor of Positive Psychology at the University of East London.

Balance between exercise and rest. In addition to a positive mindset, sleep is considered most important for respondents' mental well-being.  

"Mental strength is as important a part of our health as physical strength. At Fitbit, we want to make it easier for everyone to prioritise mental well-being and have filled up with over 300 sleep and meditation classes. Fitbit Premium also includes specially designed workouts from Calm, which use the DayForm tool to help us find balance in life," said Joanne Savage, Marketing Director EMEA for Fitbit at Google.