Latvian seniors less depressed than Baltic neighbors, study shows

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Researchers from Rīga Stradiņš University have found that Latvian seniors have been less affected mentally by the pandemic than Estonians and Lithuanians. RSU presented the study results March 3.

The team of RSU researchers has since 2017 participated in the international study SHARE (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe). SHARE is an international research program which surveys residents over the age of 50 over a period of time, covering aspects such as health, economic, demographic and psychological processes.

The study analyzed information provided by a total of 4,422 respondents from all three Baltic States, with just under 1,500 respondents from each country.

The SHARE study shows that during the first wave of Covid-19, 46% of the surveyed Latvian population over 50 years of age have been affected by increased feeling of depression, while in Lithuania the figure was 61% and in Estonia - 61.9% of the population. Researchers have found that 62.7% of the residents in Latvia who were depressed at this time were unmarried, divorced or widower, and 36.5% had no children.

As the possibility of meeting one's family or friends dwindled, the feeling of loneliness and separation increased among seniors. However, during the first wave of Covid, the Latvian population complained the least: the increase was 16.1%, while in Estonia it was 21.3%, and in Lithuania - 28% of the population. It should be noted that, before the beginning of the pandemic, 38.8% of the population aged over 50 lived in Latvia already felt lonely in everyday life, which was about 10% more than in the other two Baltic States.

21.2% of the Latvian residents, 29.9% of the Lithuanian, and 28.8% of the Estonian surveyed population stopped leaving the house during the pandemic.

The study also shows that the use of electronic communications increased among seniors, but less in Latvia than in Estonia and Lithuania.

Fears about the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the first wave of the pandemic not only reduced physical contact but also physical activity.  The study found that 32.6% of the population over 50 stopped going out on walks in Latvia, 34.7% in Lithuania, 23.8% in Estonia.

Researchers note, however, that walking and physical activity is a key factor that can have a positive effect on psychological resilience and reduce the feeling of depression.

Results of the study were presented March 3 and livestreamed on RSU Facebook page.

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