Older adults with asthma were at high risk of depression during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study has shown.

According to the study published in the journal Respiratory Medicine, the numbers were extremely concerning for older adults with asthma who had previously experienced depression, with approximately one-half experiencing a recurrence of depression during the autumn of 2020, which was significantly higher than recurrence rates among their peers who did not have asthma.

However, those who were lonely had substantially elevated rates of depression.

“When considering the high comorbidity between asthma and depression prior to the pandemic, combined with the loneliness associated with extended periods of lockdown and the stress over being labeled high risk for severe Covid-19-related outcomes, it is unsurprising that this population experienced a precipitous decline in mental health during the pandemic,” said first author, Andie MacNeil, a research assistant at the Canada-based University of Toronto.

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Using longitudinal data, the study distinguished among 2,017 respondents with asthma between those with pre-pandemic history of depression and those who had never experienced it before.

While respondents with a history of depression had the greatest risk, 1 in 7 of those without a pre-pandemic history of depression was depressed during autumn 2020, showing the impact the pandemic had on these formerly mentally healthy older adults with asthma, said the study.

“The pandemic has had detrimental consequences for the mental health of older adults, particularly those who are also navigating chronic health conditions, such as asthma,” says co-author Grace Li, a Ph.D. candidate at the Canada-based University of Victoria.

Furthermore, respondents with asthma who experienced an increase in family conflict during the pandemic were found to be more likely to develop depression by the autumn of 2020.

The researchers also discovered that having a loss of income or being unable to obtain necessary supplies or food during the pandemic was linked to depression in people with asthma.