Samuel, L. J., Dwivedi, P., Hladek, M., Cudjoe, T. K. M., Drazich, B. F., Li, Q., Szanton, S. L.
BACKGROUND: Despite profound financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a gap in estimating their effects on mental health and well-being among older adults. METHODS: The National Health and Aging Trends Study is an ongoing nationally representative cohort study of US older adults. Outcomes included mental health related to COVID-19 (scores averaged across eight items ranging from one to four), sleep quality during COVID-19, loneliness during COVID-19, having time to yourself during COVID-19, and hopefulness during COVID-19. Exposures included income decline during COVID-19 and financial difficulty due to COVID-19. Propensity score weighting produced covariate balance for demographic, socioeconomic, household, health, and well-being characteristics that preceded the pandemic to estimate the average treatment effect. Sampling weights accounted for study design and non-response. RESULTS: In weighted and adjusted analyses (n = 3257), both income decline during COVID-19 and financial difficulty due to COVID-19 were associated with poorer mental health related to COVID-19 (b = -0.159, p < 0.001 and b = -0.381, p < 0.001, respectively), poorer quality sleep (OR = 0.63, 95% CI: 0.46, 0.86 and OR = 0.42, 95% CI: 0.30, 0.58, respectively), more loneliness (OR = 1.53, 95% CI: 1.16, 2.02 and OR = 2.72, 95% CI: 1.96, 3.77, respectively), and less time to yourself (OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.40, 0.72 and OR = 0.37, 95% CI: 0.27, 0.51, respectively) during COVID-19. CONCLUSIONS: Pandemic-related financial challenges are associated with worse mental health and well-being regardless of pre-pandemic characteristics, suggesting that they are distinct social determinants of health for older adults. Timely intervention is needed to support older adults experiencing pandemic-related financial challenges.