Study Says Some Woman Over 70 Suffering Through 'The Silent Epidemic' Due To Anxiety Caused By COVID Pandemic
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A recent study reveals some women over 70 years old are felling more lonely than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers are calling it "the silent epidemic" and it's prompting health experts to take a closer look at the emotional health of all women, CBS2's Thalia Perez reported Monday.
Kim Parshley said pandemic-induced isolation left her feeling empty and alone. Limited social contact for the past two-and-a-half years for the single actress meant spending many holidays and weekends by herself.
That all changed this past Thanksgiving.
"So, as I'm sitting there at the table and I'm eating like a turkey sandwich instead of a hot, beautiful meal with a large table of people, I am just thinking of what I can do to fill the tables of all people in the world that are suffering how I felt during that time," Parshley said.
Parshley previously launched the website ChooseAFamily.com. But she decided to relaunch it with a new look and got serious about creating a social networking site where people can choose a substitute parent or any family member.
"I wanted to make a place where they could find these substitute extended family members that actually can take the place of blood relations and create bonds that are close enough to stand in the place of blood relations. That's my goal," Parshley said.
Parshley said she lost both parents at different times in her life, so this was very personal.
"You see the profiles, why they signed up. I'm bawling somethings. I'm crying my eyes out. I can't believe people have been thirsty for this for so long," Parshley said. "I've had people email me that have said thank you so much, I've found a daughter figure. That was actually the first email that ever received, and tears just rolled down my face, because even if I can change one person's life, I know I am doing the right thing."
A 2021 survey conducted by AARP revealed a spike in feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression due to the pandemic in adults over 50.
"The research shows that it was much more pronounced for women. We have to take this seriously because women matter," said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation. "These are women in the survey who reported that for a span of one to three months they had had no contact with others outside of the home or workplace."
Ryerson said disruption of social connections left many women feeling burned out. Even more, she said the results varied based on income, with low and middle incomes feeling more depressed than their counterparts with higher incomes.
"Women have always had multiplicity of roles. But during the pandemic there were fewer supports to get that done," Ryerson said.
Dr. Alexandra Stratyner, a Manhattan-based psychologist with Stratyner and Associates, said it's hard for some to ask for help.
"So often I think women feel that they're not allowed to acknowledge what they're experiencing, that it means they're bad moms if they're stressed out," Stratyner said.
Sharmine Hogan, a New Jersey mom, said she experienced sorrow and loneliness at times during the pandemic.
"It's very important that you try to dig yourself out of those negative feelings. Try to find what makes you happy or what used to make you happy," Hogan, 47, said.
Dr. Nadine Chang, a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience, works with inpatient psychiatric patients at Gracie Square Hospital.
"So when you're working, taking care of children and your household, it's very easy to say I'll take care of myself later. But then, for many people that later doesn't really come until it gets to like a breaking point," Chang said.
Chang said it was no surprise when she saw an influx of new patients, including women and moms, seeking mental health treatment nine months into the pandemic.
Chang said being creative and being open to trying new things is good for mental health.
"People were making sourdough bread. People were learning to crochet. People started doing yoga from home," she said. "If I am enjoying crocheting, then this is something I will feel good about and I will enjoy. So any way we can inject a little bit of pleasure and enjoyment is a way to reduce stress and anxiety."
Doctors say it's time to seek professional help when feeling withdrawn from normal activities and unable to cope.
CBS2's Thalia Perez contributed to this report.
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