The impacts on health in early life cumulatively influences the next stages all the way through old age. The life course model allows us to visualize new life choices within the context of COVID-19 (summary table at the bottom).
Everyone is affected including persons not yet born and those in early life. The stress felt by pregnant women and expectant fathers translate in utero and can lead to premature births. Additionally, fathers may be more involved with young children because of the shift to at-home work which benefits young children. However, toddlers are sensitive to changes that they cannot yet understand and will need to be monitored to prevent lasting negative health effects.
Children tend to develop anxiety in seeing parents distressed in tandem with an introduction of new social rules about dangers that they cannot see. Children may experience lasting scars from poor nutrition, anxiety, family instability, domestic violence since they are undergoing stress during pivotal times in development.
Adolescent and Young Adulthood
Adolescents and young adults may be more prone to PTSD diagnoses in the future due to excessive screen exposure prompted by the pandemic. Additionally, they may experience forgone educational opportunities limiting their ability to succeed in future endeavors.
Young adults are often blamed for disregarding protective measures. Furthermore, young adults may experience difficulty gaining work experience and never catch up to earlier cohorts in socio-economic attainment which ultimately leads to poorer health outcomes.
Adulthood career and family formation are disrupted. This adds “insult to injury” for millennials in their thirties who went through the 2008 recession. Relationships at this stage are at risk–partnerships may be difficult to form and sustain. Additionally, excess stress has been put on women of working age to support themselves, their families, potentially newborns; all of which they may have to tackle alone.
The Elderly are faced with increased instances of discrimination and loneliness as they may be forced into permanent retirement. COVID-19 protocols have required many people of old age to say goodbye from a distance and die alone. They may opt to age in place instead of at elderly centers because these places have become high risk for contracting COVID-19, especially when they are more likely to develop a severe case. At this stage, more elderly have shown a greater value for positive and meaningful life experiences due to these dire circumstances.
The pandemic has underscored the reality that life’s choices are limited. Cohorts may never catch up to earlier and later cohorts; have continuing disadvantages that lead to poor health outcomes later in life. Markets have stagnated and people may be stranded away from loved ones due to travel restrictions.
The lasting effects of outliving a partner, child, or loved ones who died from COVID-19 destabilizes mental health. However, the pandemic has highlighted existing inequity and led to more instances of the use of collective action to address systemic racism. The cumulative effects of COVID-19 requires that we address the weaknesses in our social systems. The life course model allows us to acknowledge intervention points at each life stage to help us all work toward a healthier future.
|Health||Personal Control & Planning||Social Relationships & Family||Education & Training||Work and Careers||Migration & Mobility|
The stress felt by pregnant women and expectant fathers translates in utero and can lead to premature births
Fathers more involved; toddlers sensitive to changes that are not understood
|Childhood||Lasting scars from poor nutrition, anxiety, family instability, domestic violence; excessive screen exposure can lead to PTSD||–||–||Amount/lack of resources affects remote learning quality||–||–|
|Adolescent||High unemployment rates and greater health risk as “Gig Economy” workers||Maybe blamed for disregarding protective measures||Difficulty gaining work experience||Delayed educational transitions and adulthood in navigating labor, housing and relationships|| |
Cumulative impact from loss of training, experience and promotion
Postponed or forgone education abroad or career moves
|Adulthood||Disruption and delayed care||Increased burden from supporting relatives how may not be settled in employment and housing||Postponement of partnering or accelerated separation; child delivery/birth alone; maybe thrusted into a caregiver role||Long-term earning negatively impacted for those entering workforce||Labor market exclusion; “lost generation” with truncated career and family formation; adding “insult to injury” for cohort in thirties who went through 2008 recession||Families left behind by seasonal workers|
|Old Age||Higher risk for severe COVID-19||Optimize positive and meaningful experiences||Dying alone or saying goodbye from a distance||–||Ageism and forcing permanent retirement||Aging in place instead of elderly centers that have become high risk for COVID-19|
|Lifetime/ cumulative||Cohorts may never catch up to earlier and later cohorts; have continuing disadvantages that lead to poor health outcomes later in life||Using collective agency to address systemic racism when individual control loss|
Outliving partner or child who died from COVID-19
|More openness and responsiveness for ongoing education||Career inequalities; fewer “weak/bridge ties” lessen employment opportunities||Limited migration, stranded and less globalization of labor markets|
- Settersten Jr, Richard A., Laura Bernardi, Juho Härkönen, Toni C. Antonucci, Pearl A. Dykstra, Jutta Heckhausen, Diana Kuh et al. “Understanding the effects of Covid-19 through a life course lens.” (2020): 100360.
- Studies detail risk of preterm birth, severe COVID-19 in pregnant women. University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease and Policy. Nov. 3 2020
- Imran N, Zeshan M, Pervaiz Z. Mental health considerations for children & adolescents in COVID-19 Pandemic. Pak J Med Sci. 2020;36(COVID19-S4):S67-S72. doi:10.12669/pjms.36.COVID19-S4.2759