University of Leeds in national study aimed at improving older people's mental health during Covid pandemic

University of Leeds researchers are  working on  on  a groundbreaking national public health study of older people suffering depression and loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Mark Lavery
Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 8:23 pm
Dr Gemma Traviss-Turner, lecturer (left) with research assistant Leanne Shearsmith

They have teamed up with Age UK Leeds and a number of other universities to carry out one of only two urgent Covid-19 public mental health studies in the UK.

The research team have developed a support package which can be delivered remotely for older people with long-term health conditions who are following Covid-19 restrictions by social distancing, and or self-isolating, and shielding.

Pensioners are currently being recruited to part in the The Behavioural Activation in Social Isolation (BASIL+) study, which is being led by the University of York.

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It aims to reduce depression and loneliness amongst pensioners who have existing health conditions.

Leanne Shearsmith, research assistant at the University of Leeds said: “We’re working with older people who are struggling at times with loneliness, disruption of daily routine and loss of social contact.

"I’m proud to be part of this study which could help tackle the mental health impact of the pandemic. We’re recruiting just as lockdown starts again when people may need support the most.”

The BASIL+ study involves people aged over 65 who have two or more long term physical health conditions - including diabetes, asthma or heart problems - or a health condition that may have required self-isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following a pilot trial of almost 100 people, a larger trial to test the effectiveness of the support package will soon roll out across the UK.

The larger trial aims to recruit 590 people nationwide, including older adults across Leeds and Bradford. People must be invited to take part in BASIL + by their GP.

The support package is based on helping people maintain or introduce activities which are important to them and benefit their physical and emotional wellbeing by helping them stay connected with the world and remain active, despite having to isolate.

Dr Gemma Traviss-Turner, lecturer in primary care at the University of Leeds, said: "This is an exciting opportunity to work with our colleagues at the Universities of York, Keele, Manchester, Age UK and Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust to apply our long-established expertise in addressing the mental health of older adults, to tackle an urgent public health issue. Covid-19 and enforced lock-down poses new demands on people’s mental, physical and social wellbeing."

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research.

The BASIL+ study has been classed as an Urgent COVID-19 Public Health study by the Department of Health and Social Care and National Institute for Health Research.