Changes in perceived ageism during the COVID-19 pandemic: impact on quality of life and mental well-being among Dutch adults aged 55 and older

Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic brought ageism to the forefront of public discourse. Negative ageism incurs more negative self-perceptions of aging, which affects physical and mental functioning. Whether negative ageism as perceived and experienced by older adults has worsened as the pandemic lingered, and how such changes impact quality of life (QoL) and mental well-being (MWB), remain urgent questions.

Method: In a sample of adults aged 55 or older (n = 500), we aimed to address this by administering the Perceived Ageism Questionnaire twice during the pandemic (T1: between October 2020 and May 2021; T2: on average 45 wk after T1).

Results: Higher levels of perceived negative ageism were associated with lower QoL and MWB, at least partially through its unfavorable effects on self-perceptions of aging, even after controlling for ageism experiences in the preceding year (at T2, corrected for T1). Furthermore, we found that perceived negative ageism increased from T1 to T2, which had negative implications for QoL/MWB. Opposite effects were found for perceived positive ageism, although less consistently.

Conclusion: These patterns reveal that ageism as perceived and experienced by adults of 55 or older became stronger and more negative throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which had detrimental implications for individuals’ QoL and MWB. These disconcerting findings emphasize the importance of combatting negative ageism in our society.

Lotte Brinkhof, Jaap Murre, Sanne de Wit, Harm Krugers en Richard Ridderinkhof: ‘Changes in Perceived Ageism during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Impact on Quality of Life and Mental Well-being Among Dutch Adults Aged 55 and Older’, in: Aging and Mental Health (28 april 2023).

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Icon afbeelding: "Elderly " "Covid" Photo by CDC on Unsplash