“We found that a larger social network and better perceived social support seems to be protective against loneliness and poorer health and wellbeing, due to social distancing," Whittaker said. "This underlines the importance of addressing loneliness and social contact in older adults, but particularly during pandemics or situations where the risk of isolation is high.”
Most of the 1,429 survey takers — 84% — were 60 or older and on average had five people in their social circle. Participants socialized an average of five days a week for over 6.6 hours weekly. More loneliness due to social distancing measures was reported by 56% of respondents.
While social distancing affected socializing it didn’t negatively affect physical activity.
Most participants kept up with physical activity guidelines during lockdown as 35% reported being moderately active and 41% said they were highly active. Walking was a main factor during lockdown as 26.4% reported they’d strolled more than before lockdown; even more physical activity was reported for people residing in rural areas. Some participants, however, reported less physical activity and experienced worsened well-being.
“Physical activity engagement during lockdown varied and this study indicates a positive link with wellbeing – supporting the notion that physical activity should be considered an important contributor in recovery strategies targeted at older adults as we emerge from the pandemic," Whittaker said. ”There appears to be a relationship between pre-lockdown physical activity and physical activity changes due to lockdown. This may be of significance in the context of trying to get older adults to maintain or increase physical activity, where appropriate, as we emerge from this pandemic, given our understanding of the benefits of physical activity in this age group."