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Demographic and Psychographic Factors of Social Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Importance of Technology Confidence

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The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented situation in which physical distancing and "stay at home" orders have increased the pressures for social isolation. Critically, certain demographic factors have been linked to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. These at-risk groups for social isolation may be disproportionately affected by the changes and restrictions that have been implemented to prevent viral spread. In our analysis, we sought to evaluate if perceived feelings of social isolation, during the COVID-19 pandemic, was related to demographic and technology-related psychographic characteristics. Older adults across Canada were surveyed about their demographic background, their feelings concerning confidence and proficiency in technology use, and how frequently they have felt isolated during the pandemic. In total 927 responses from Canadians over 65 years old, of varying demographic characteristics were collected. Our data shows that many older adults are feeling isolated "Often" or "Some of the time" in 2020, regardless of most demographic factors that have been previously associated with increased isolation risk. However, feelings of proficiency in using technology was an important factor affecting feelings of isolation. Given that technology proficiency is a modifiable factor, and remained significant after adjustment for demographic factors, future efforts to reduce social isolation should consider training programs for older adults to improve technology confidence, especially in an increasingly digital world.
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