MENTAL HEALTH RISK ALERTS AND LONELINESS DURING THE PANDEMIC: A COMPARATIVE INSIGHT FROM THREE BALKAN COUNTRIES

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Ph. D. Ekaterina Lyubenova Markova
Ph. D. Gabriela Yordanova
Ph. D. Ekaterina Tosheva

Resumen

The aim of this paper is to explore the country-specific causes of mental health risk alerts (MHRA)
and loneliness during the pandemic among populations aged 60+ in three Balkan countries: Bulgaria,
Romania and Greece. Persons 60+ years of age are a high-risk group from a health (infection
severity) and social (physical distance, self-isolation) perspective due to Covid-19. The lockdown
measures in force differ between countries and have highlighted the importance of intensive social
contacts and family support. Lack of social contact, anxiety and loneliness increase the risks for
mental health, and analysis reveals interesting comparative insights. Restriction of physical contact
and fear of infection intensify feelings of anxiety and loneliness, but there is insufficient empirical
evidence on how these factors affect the 60+ age group in the three Balkan countries. The analysis
is based on the SHARE Corona survey, with pre-selection of panel members 60+ years of age.
Anxiety, depression, and loneliness also depend on social networks. In addition, low socioeconomic
status is associated with a higher risk of mental disorders, especially during the outbreak, due to
general economic uncertainty. There are peculiarities across the countries in terms of sociodemographic characteristics of the 60+ population, as well as self-assessment of household
economic status since the beginning of the pandemic. The degree of MHRA and loneliness varies
between countries and corresponds to the severity of the anti-epidemic measures introduced.
Participation in social networks during the pandemic also varies between countries and various sociodemographic groups. The results of the logistics models support the hypothesis that factors
influencing the increased MHRA and loneliness are country-specific. The outbreak and its influence
on the population must be analysed within a specific national context. Anti-epidemic measures and
the severity of the pandemic differ between countries, and MHRA and loneliness depend on national
and cultural specifics.

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