The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on stress, emotional well-being, and coping strategies of older adults in Aotearoa : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology with endorsement in Health Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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The COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures were recognized to be avenues of stress and adversely impacted emotional well-being. The current study aimed to explore whether the COVID-19 pandemic was perceived as being stressful and whether it impacted the coping strategies (social support, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking) and emotional well-being (experience of depression and anxiety) among older adults in Aotearoa. The study also intended to examine whether coping strategies moderated the relationship between stress and emotional well-being. Longitudinal data collected from 3275 participants (M = 68.1 years) as part of the Health, Work, and Retirement study's 2018 and 2020 biennial surveys was utilized. The perception of stress was evaluated through analyzing the subjective responses in 2020 survey, paired T-tests were used to identify changes in coping and emotional well-being and hierarchical regression was utilized for moderation analysis. The results highlighted that older adults perceived COVID-19 as a source of stress; however, it was on the low spectrum. No statistically significant changes were detected among coping strategies and emotional well-being before and after the pandemic. All four coping strategies moderated the relationship between stress and emotional well-being with social support significantly exerting a protective effect even against high-stress levels during the global pandemic. These findings align with the wider literature in suggesting that support from social networks can potentially buffer against the stress. The inclusion of provisions through which social support can be enhanced and maintained during a pandemic might be a valuable addition to the broader policy framework.
COVID-19, older adults, mental stress, coping, social support, emotional well-being