Pandemic Fatigue Is Setting In: Here’s How to Cope

COVID-19 restrictions have been a way of life for months now, and the infection shows no sign of slowing down. As we become used to this new normal, pandemic fatigue seems to be setting in. A new study shows that both younger and older adults were more likely to engage in risky behaviors after two months of the pandemic.The November study, published in the journal PLOS One, took data from over 5,000 participants and gauged both personal and social behaviors during the pandemic. Researchers examined how age affected behaviors in response to COVID-19, and how these behaviors changed over the first three months of the pandemic (March, April, May).1

The behaviors were categorized as preventative (like wearing a face mask) or risky (like attending social events). The researchers found that several factors contributed to how people responded and whether they engaged in preventative or risky behaviors, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race/ethnicity

They also found that as the pandemic progressed, the way people responded changed.

“It is concerning that people increased risky social behaviors over time, particularly older people, who could have more adverse consequences from meeting with family and friends,” lead study author Jung Ki Kim, PhD, research associate professor at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, said in a press release.2

How People Have Responded to the Pandemic

Researchers found at the beginning of the quarantine period, older people (ages 65 and older) were no more likely than younger people (ages 18 to 34) to practice preventive behaviors in response to the pandemic.

The study looked at five preventive behaviors. In March, older people behaved no differently from younger people when it came to:1

  • Wearing a face mask
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Canceling personal and social activities
  • Avoiding high-risk people, public places
  • Eating at restaurants

However, by May, older people were more likely to implement such behaviors. Except for wearing a mask, overall, adults adopted preventive behaviors in the first month, but then reduced the modification of their behaviors somewhat after April.

The use of face masks, however, continued to increase over time; the percentage in May was about double that of April.

In terms of risky behaviors, older people were less likely than younger people to have close contact with those outside their household and less likely to go to other people’s homes a month after the pandemic started. However, both younger and older people tended to resume these potentially risky social behaviors as the pandemic progressed.1

Beyond age, researchers found that other characteristics led people to practice more preventive behaviors in response to COVID-19, including:

  • Being female
  • Being Black, Hispanic, or Asian
  • Having a higher education
  • Having underlying conditions
  • Residing in a state where the COVID-19 outbreak was more prevalent
  • Trusting CNN more than Fox News

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