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Damning study suggests pandemic lockdowns accelerated 'significant' memory and cognitive decline in seniors
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Damning study suggests pandemic lockdowns accelerated 'significant' memory and cognitive decline in seniors

The lockdowns and societal restrictions championed by teachers' unions and other leftists during the pandemic were not just ruinous for the mental health of children and teens. A new study out of the U.K. indicates pandemic restrictions also had a deleterious impact on the minds of the elderly.

Dr. Anne Corbett of the University of Exeter Medical School and her team examined neuropsychology data from 3,142 individuals, all 50 years of age or over, who had been participating in a multi-decade dementia study in Britain. The researchers compared data on this cohort collected before the pandemic, early in the pandemic, then once more toward the tail end of the pandemic.

The researchers observed "[s]ignificant worsening of executive function and working memory" in the first year of the pandemic across the whole cohort, the average age of which was 67.5. Working memory continued to worsen across the whole cohort in the second year of the pandemic. By the time restrictions had ultimately been eased, the damage had been done.

According to the study, cognitive decline was significantly associated with reduced exercise and increased drinking across the whole cohort. Depression, another driving factor of cognitive decline, was notable amongst those who contracted COVID-19. Loneliness proved especially detrimental to those with mild cognitive impairment.

"People aged 50 years and older in the UK had accelerated decline in executive function and working memory during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the UK was subjected to three societal lockdowns for a total period of 6 months," said the study, published in the Lancet journal Healthy Longevity.

The British government, which funded this study via the National Institute for Health and Care Research, not only limited the number of times citizens could exercise outside during the pandemic, but shuttered gyms, golf courses, sports courts, swimming pools, and indoor sports facilities.

"The scale of change is also of note, with all groups—the whole cohort and the individual subgroups—showing more than a 50% greater decline in working memory and executive function and many effect sizes reaching a clinically significant threshold of greater than 0·3," said the researchers.

The researchers further stressed that "[t]hese factors map closely to the population-wide changes in health and lifestyle seen during and after the lockdowns, raising the important question of the effect of the pandemic on cognitive health and risk across populations."

Governments across the West imposed lockdown measures on and off throughout the pandemic despite early indications there would be serious cognitive fallout, particularly amongst the elderly.

For instance, Italian scientists noted in an October 2020 paper in Frontiers in Psychiatry that social disconnection — of the kind all but guaranteed by the closure of voluntary associations, churches, parishes, gyms, and other meeting places for seniors — was a risk factor for dementia and likely to increase the risk of depression and anxiety for elderly people.

"Lockdown could affect disproportionately the mental health of old people, whom relatives contracted COVID-19, people who live alone and whose only social contacts take place outside home, and people who do not have close relatives or friends and rely on the support of voluntary services or social assistance," said the paper.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News. He lives in a small town with his wife and son, moonlighting as an author of science fiction.
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