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Penn Nursing recently published a study which found rates of mild or greater depressive symptoms for older adults with type 2 diabetes to be higher now than before the pandemic.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

A study from Penn Nursing found that rates of mild or greater depressive symptoms increased by 1.6 times among older adults with type 2 diabetes compared to before the pandemic. 

The study assessed insomnia, loneliness, and depressive symptoms in the patient cohort at visits before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The patients were from the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) cohort and included over 2,800 adults with an average age of about 75 years. 

Patient visits prior to the pandemic took place during and prior to February 2020 and the visits conducted during the pandemic took place between July and December 2020. According to the study, researchers did not observe a significant discrepancy in depressive symptoms between the two prepandemic visits. However, rates of mild or greater depressive symptoms were reported among 30.4% of the study’s participants at their visit after the onset of the pandemic, compared to 19.3% of the cohort at pre-pandemic visits. 

This increase in depression was present in every subgroup involved in the study. The cohort was grouped by age, if a patient’s race/ethnicity was underrepresented, BMI, sex, diabetes treatment modality, and number of comorbidities with diabetes. 

Loneliness increased by 1.8 times among the patients during the pandemic, while levels of insomnia were unchanged, according to the study, Penn Nursing News reported. More than half of the cohort remained without mental health symptoms at both visits. 

Ariana Chao, assistant professor of Nursing at Penn Nursing and lead author of the study, told Penn Nursing News that differences in the results by demographic factors were an important outcome of the study. 

“Women, relative to men, had greater odds of depressive symptoms, anxiety, loneliness, and perceived COVID-19 threat,” Chao told Penn Medicine News. “Compared with participants who were non-Hispanic white, those from underrepresented groups tended to report lower levels of depressive symptoms, loneliness, and insomnia.”