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COVID-19-related social support service closures and mental well-being in older adults and those affected by dementia: a UK longitudinal survey
  1. Clarissa Giebel1,2,
  2. Daniel Pulford3,
  3. Claudia Cooper4,
  4. Kathryn Lord5,
  5. Justine Shenton6,
  6. Jacqueline Cannon7,
  7. Lisa Shaw8,
  8. Hilary Tetlow9,
  9. Stan Limbert2,
  10. Steve Callaghan10,
  11. Rosie Whittington11,
  12. Carol Rogers12,
  13. Aravind Komuravelli13,
  14. Manoj Rajagopal3,
  15. Ruth Eley14,
  16. Murna Downs15,
  17. Siobhan Reilly16,
  18. Kym Ward17,
  19. Anna Gaughan18,
  20. Sarah Butchard1,
  21. Jules Beresford5,
  22. Caroline Watkins19,
  23. Kate Bennett1,
  24. Mark Gabbay1,2
  1. 1Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2NIHR ARC NWC, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, Preston, Lancashire, UK
  4. 4University College London, London, UK
  5. 5University of Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK
  6. 6Sefton Older People's Forum, Sefton, UK
  7. 7Lewy Body Society, Wigan, UK
  8. 8Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  9. 9SURF Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  10. 10EQE Health, Liverpool, UK
  11. 11Me2U Care, Liverpool, UK
  12. 12National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  13. 13North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Warrington, UK
  14. 14Liverpool DAA, Liverpool, UK
  15. 15Bradford Dementia Group, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
  16. 16Division of Health Research, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  17. 17The Brain Charity, Liverpool, UK
  18. 18TIDE, Liverpool, UK
  19. 19Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Clarissa Giebel; clarissa.giebel{at}


Background The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on delivery of social support services. This might be expected to particularly affect older adults and people living with dementia (PLWD), and to reduce their well-being.

Aims To explore how social support service use by older adults, carers and PLWD, and their mental well-being changed over the first 3 months since the pandemic outbreak.

Methods Unpaid dementia carers, PLWD and older adults took part in a longitudinal online or telephone survey collected between April and May 2020, and at two subsequent timepoints 6 and 12 weeks after baseline. Participants were asked about their social support service usage in a typical week prior to the pandemic (at baseline), and in the past week at each of the three timepoints. They also completed measures of levels of depression, anxiety and mental well-being.

Results 377 participants had complete data at all three timepoints. Social support service usage dropped shortly after lockdown measures were imposed at timepoint 1 (T1), to then increase again by T3. The access to paid care was least affected by COVID-19. Cases of anxiety dropped significantly across the study period, while cases of depression rose. Well-being increased significantly for older adults and PLWD from T1 to T3.

Conclusions Access to social support services has been significantly affected by the pandemic, which is starting to recover slowly. With mental well-being differently affected across groups, support needs to be put in place to maintain better well-being across those vulnerable groups during the ongoing pandemic.

  • dementia
  • COVID-19
  • mental health
  • old age psychiatry

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Twitter @ClarissaGiebel, @DrSiobhanReilly

  • Contributors CG managed data collection, conducted analysis and wrote the manuscript. JC, JS and DP collected data over the phone. DP managed the data. All authors contributed to designing the survey, interpreting the findings and reading drafts of the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This research is supported by a grant awarded to the authors by the University of Liverpool COVID-19 Strategic Research Fund in 2020. This is also independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care. The University of Bradford QR Research Fund also supported part of this study. There are no grant numbers.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Liverpool prior to study begin (Ref: 7626).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data may be obtained by a third party and are not publicly available.