METHODS: A cross-sectional survey research was conducted among Latinx older adults living in subsidized housing in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Eighty-three Latinx older adults (21 Male/62 Female; Age: 74.5 ± 7.3 years; BMI= 30.0 ± 6.1 kg/m2) participated in the study. The study was conducted from Oct, 2020 to March, 2021 via telephone interviews. A change in body weight (maintain vs. increase) was self-reported by the participants. Mental health was assessed using Satisfaction with Life Scale, Geriatric Depression Scale, 3-item Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 scale. Social factors were examined by the 5-item Neighborhood Social Cohesion scale and 2-items assessing neighborhood safety. Participants were divided into two groups based on reported weight gain (n=35) vs. weight maintenance (n=48). A series of t-test analyses were conducted.
RESULTS: Participants who gained weight had significantly lower life satisfaction (25.8 ± 5.2 vs. 28.7 ± 4.2; p=0.006) and greater level of depression (4.3 ± 3.5 vs. 2.7 ± 3.4; p=0.04) and loneliness (4.97 ± 1.77 vs. 4.23 ± 1.56; p=0.04) compared to their counterparts. They also tended to have more anxiety (11.4 ± 4.8 vs. 9.5 ± 4.4; p=0.07). Regarding impact of social factors, participants with weight gain reported lower neighborhood social cohesion (16.06 ± 4.87 vs. 18.25 ± 3.42; p=0.02) and tended to feel less safe in their neighborhood (8.37 ± 1.73 vs. 9 ± 1.15; p=0.05) compared to those who maintained their body weight during the pandemic.
CONCLUSIONS and IMPLICATIONS: Low-income Latinx older adults who gained body weight during the COVID-19 pandemic had lower level of life satisfaction and greater level of depression and loneliness. They also felt less connectedness to their neighborhood. The findings suggest that psychosocial factors may play an important role in one’s ability to maintain body weight, particularly during times that may increase level of distress and social isolation. Such findings call attention to programs and policies focusing on mental health and community cohesion to mitigate negative impact of pandemic on health and promote well-being of racial/ethnic minority older adults with low income.