Older men who don’t give a damn about Covid-19 need guidance

Coronavirus (File Photo: IANS)

New York:  If your father or an old man in your society does not give a damn about Covid-19, it is time to tell them that not worrying in golden years is a good thing but when it comes to coronavirus, they must strictly follow social distancing.

According to new research, older men are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 because they worry less about catching or dying from it than women their age or than younger people of both sexes

This is a concern because older men are already more at risk of severe or fatal Covid-19 infections as data from the US CDC shows the fatality rate of Covid-19 steadily rises with age, and that men are more at risk than women.

“Not only do older adults exhibit less negative emotions in their daily lives, they also exhibit less worry and fewer PTSD symptoms following natural disasters and terrorist attacks,” said Sarah Barber, a gerontology and psychology researcher at Georgia State University.

It is well established that worry is a key motivator of behavioural health changes, said Barber, including motivating people to engage in preventive health care activities such as healthy eating, exercise and timely screenings.

In general, worry begins to ease with age, and is also lower among men than women.

In normal circumstances, said Barber, not worrying as much is a good thing.

“Everyday life is probably happier if we worry less. However, where Covid-19 is concerned, we expected that lower amounts of worry would translate into fewer protective Covid-19 behaviour changes,” she said in a paper published by the Journals of Gerontology.

To test levels of worry and protective behaviours, Barber teamed with Hyunji Kim, a Georgia State doctoral student in psychology, and administered an online questionnaire assessing COVID-19 perceptions and behaviour changes.

Knowing that older adults tend to worry less, Barber conducted the study to see how this affected responses to the global pandemic.

Participants were either aged 18-35 or aged 65-81, with 146 younger adults and 156 older adults studied.

The questionnaire assessed behavioural changes that can reduce infection risk, from washing hands more often, to wearing a mask, avoiding socializing, avoiding public places, observing a complete quarantine or taking more care with a balanced diet and purchasing extra food or medications.

Not surprisingly, said Barber, most participants were at least moderately concerned about Covid-19, and only one individual, an older male, had “absolutely no worry at all”.

The catch was older men. Compared to all other participants, older men were less worried about Covid-19, and had adopted the fewest number of behaviour changes.

They were relatively less likely to have worn a mask, to report having stopped touching their faces or to have purchased extra food.

“Our study showed that for older men, accurate perception of risk worked as well as worry to predict preventive behaviours,” she said.

If older men can be better educated about the virus, they may adopt protective behaviours even if they don’t feel worried.

“Older men may need a little extra coaching and attention to risk assessment and protective behaviours, both from concerned family members as well as their healthcare practitioners,” the authors said.