The Shocking Reason Older Men Are at an Even Higher Risk for Coronavirus

Because older men are less worried about COVID-19, they're less likely to take precautions.

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Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, experts have been particularly concerned about the spread of the virus in elderly populations. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected senior citizens, with 42 percent of deaths from the disease occurring in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Adults over 60 are more likely to suffer from coronavirus complications, many of which can be fatal. But there's one reason that older men in particular are even more likely to contract COVID-19, and it's especially surprising given what we know about the virus: They are less worried about coronavirus than others, and therefore less likely to take precautions against it.

According to a May study published in The Journals of Gerontology, older men were less concerned about coronavirus than older women and their younger counterparts. As a result, older men (aged 65-81) were the least likely to have implemented any behavioral changes that have been shown to help prevent COVID-19, including wearing masks, avoiding socializing, and not touching their own faces.

And therein lies the problem. Generally speaking, not worrying is a good thing, especially in terms of the negative effect stress and anxiety can have on one's health. But worry can also be a powerful motivating force. As study author Sarah Barber, a gerontology and psychology researcher at Georgia State University, explained in a statement, "Everyday life is probably happier if we worry less. However, where COVID-19 is concerned, we expected that lower amounts of worry would translate into fewer protective COVID-19 behavior changes."

older white man embracing older asian man in park
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The results of the study overall were largely encouraging. Even though it was conducted relatively early on in the pandemic—with questionnaires being filled out between March 23 and March 31—every participant but one said they were at least somewhat concerned about coronavirus. And that translated to new behaviors, like washing their hands more and avoiding public places. Naturally, those who were most worried about COVID-19 had made the most lifestyle changes.

Nevertheless, men over 65 stood out as the least concerned, and were the least likely to have committed to doing the things that would keep them safest. The more we learn about coronavirus, the more we know the tremendous impact wearing masks and social distancing can have—not just for the individual, but also in preventing the spread of the virus to the community at large.

The good news is that senior men don't need to worry more to take these precautions more seriously: They just need to be more aware of the risks. "Our study showed that for older men, accurate perception of risk worked as well as worry to predict preventive behaviors," Barber explained. Given how much information about coronavirus we have learned in the short time since the study was conducted, it's possible that many of the older men polled have already changed their tune.

And for information that all older people should be aware of, here are 7 Silent Symptoms of Coronavirus Seniors Need to Know.

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