Older men more at risk for COVID-19 infection but do less to prevent it, study finds

lada_maestro/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Maybe it's time to have a serious talk with grandpa about wearing that mask when he goes out.  A new study finds older men often do the least to protect themselves against COVID-19 infection, even though their age and sex places them among those most susceptible to infection.

Georgia State University gerontology and psychology researcher Sarah Barber already knew from her work that the older people get, the less they tend to worry about things in general, especially men.  And since worry is a key motivator in getting people to take care of their health, Barber posted an online questionnaire to assess how older adults felt about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Participants fell into two age groups, 18-35 and 65-81, and answered questions about how they judged the virus' severity, whether they thought people were overreacting to it, what steps and behavioral changes they intended to take regarding it, and so on.  It's worth noting that the survey was conducted from March 23 to 31, shortly after U.S. lockdowns began and while the national infection and fatality rates were far lower than they are now. 

The results?  While the majority of respondents reported moderate levels of worry and also said they were washing their hands more, avoiding public places and so on, older men reported far less worry about catching COVID-19.  They also had adopted the fewest number of behavioral changes, including being the least likely to wear a mask in public or purchase extra food for extended stays at home. 

Barber says they way to get older men to take the pandemic more seriously isn't to get them to worry more, but to better educate them about their level of risk, and why it's prudent to take steps to protect themselves from infection.

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