Older Adults May Be Most At-Risk for Stress During Holidays

Women and individuals in their 50s and early 60s reported feeling the most stress about COVID-19.

According to a recent poll of individuals aged 50-80, most older adults are staying resilient and finding joy despite the pandemic this holiday season. However, mental health clinicians should be aware that a sizeable minority are feeling high stress levels, including about their risk of getting COVID-19.

The poll—which was based at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and conducted before widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for older adults—found that 20% of older adults said they are feeling a lot of stress right now, while 38% said they have little to no stress. Those aged 50 to 65 were nearly twice as likely as those aged 65 to 80 to said they experience a lot of stress (25% compared to 13%), and women and participants in their 50s and early 60s were more likely to report feeling a lot of stress. This was particularly true for participants with the lowest incomes and those who said their overall physical or mental health was fair or poor. Further, 27% of older adults said that just thinking about leaving their houses caused them stress about the possibility of catching COVID-19, while 58% said thinking about going to a crowded indoor space made them feel stressed for the same reason.1

However, 15% percent of older adults said they have become more resilient and more able to “bounce back” or overcome challenges during the pandemic, while 71% said they are just as resilient as they were before the pandemic. Over half of respondents—53%—said they are feeling some joy, and 30% said they are feeling a lot of joy, with only 17% saying they are feeling little to no joy. Overall, nearly half of the poll respondents—47%—reported feeling a mixture of joy and stress.1

More findings from the poll about the influence of health and income on stress levels and sources of joy are available in Tables 1 and 2, respectively.

“The clear differences in ability to find joy during these times, and in experiences of stress, based on health status, shows the importance of focusing on those in poor health,” said Lindsay Kobayashi, PhD, MSc, poll report author and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in a statement. “But for all older adults, we know that alterations in daily life impact emotional and mental health, so finding safe ways to enjoy favorite activities is important.”

This article was adapted from “Poll Identifies Most At-Risk Patients During the Holidays,” originally published in Medical Economics.


1. Kobayashi L, Finlay J. Joy and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. National Poll on Healthy Aging: University of Michigan. December 14, 2021. Accessed December 21, 2021.