Background: Homebound older adults have heightened risks for isolation and negative health consequences, but it is unclear how COVID-19 has impacted them. We examine social contact and mood symptoms among previously homebound older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design/Setting: Cross-sectional analysis using data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a nationally-representative longitudinal study of aging in the USA. Participants: A total of 3,112 community-dwelling older adults in 2019 who completed the COVID-19 survey in the summer/fall of 2020. Measurements: Homebound status was defined via self-report as rarely/never leaving home or leaving the house with difficulty or help in the prior month. We measured limited social contact during COVID-19 (in-person, telephone, video or email contacts <once/week), as well as loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Results: Among homebound older adults, 13.2% experienced limited social contact during COVID-19 vs. 6.5% of the non-homebound. Differences in social contact were greatest for contacts via email/text/social media: 54.9% of the homebound used this <once/week vs. 28.4% of the non-homebound. In adjusted analyses of those without limited social contact prior to the pandemic, the homebound had higher but not significantly different odds (OR 1.83; 95% CI 0.95–3.52) of limited social contact during COVID-19, with increased risk among the older individuals, those with dementia, and those in assisted living facilities. Of the homebound, 13.2% felt lonely every/most days during the pandemic vs. 7.7% of non-homebound older adults. Homebound and non-homebound older adults reported similar rates of increased loneliness, anxiety, or depression during COVID-19. Fewer homebound older adults learned a new technology during the pandemic (16.3%) vs. non-homebound older adults (30.4%). Discussion: Isolation among homebound older adults increased during COVID-19, partially due to differences in technology use. We must ensure that homebound persons have the connection and care they need including new technologies for communication during and beyond COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1182
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Homebound
  • Isolation
  • Social contact


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