Publication date: Sep 20, 2023
The current study aimed to explore the protective factors and underlying mechanisms associated with loneliness and psychological distress among older Chinese adults within the framework of a longitudinal design. This investigation specifically focused on the mediating role of attitudes toward own aging (ATOA) in the relationship between social support and the experience of loneliness and psychological distress (comprising depression, anxiety, and stress) amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. A cohort of 345 elderly individuals (mean age = 83. 84 years, standard deviation = 8. 49 years; 55. 1% females) participated in this research endeavor. The participants were required to complete self-report instruments measuring their perceived levels of social support at Time 1 (T1), attitudes towards own aging, ATOA at Time 2 (T2), and their experiences of loneliness, and psychological distress (including depression, anxiety, and stress) at T1 and Time 3 (T3). The data collection timeline encompassed baseline data collection at T1 in September 2020, a subsequent six-month follow-up at T2 in March 2021, and a one-year follow up at T3 in September 2021. The findings of this investigation unveiled a negative predictive relationship between social support at T1 and psychological distress (encompassing depression, anxiety, and stress) at T3. Furthermore, it was discerned that ATOA at T2 acted as a mediating mechanism, elucidating the longitudinal association between social support at T1 and the manifestation of loneliness and psychological distress (including depression, anxiety, and stress) at T3. The discussion section of this paper delves into an exploration of the limitations and implications inherent in these conclusions, particularly concerning their relevance to potential intervention strategies.