According to a study by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Office of Community Health & Research, one in four adults in the U.S. have experienced the loss of a family member or close friend due to COVID-19.
The study, COVID-19 Death Exposure Among Adults in the United States, analyzed the responses of participants who self-reported the death of a loved one due to COVID-19. Other studies show that those who experienced loss due to COVID-19 have also suffered prolonged or complicated grief and that those grieving the loss of a close relative or friend experience increased chances of physical health issues and higher rates of disability, medication use, hospitalization and depressive symptoms.
“People who have suffered loss during the pandemic may still be suffering,” said Dr. Don E. Willis. “The impact of the pandemic does not end at the point of death, but ripples out across social networks. Even if the last COVID-19 death were to occur tomorrow, the staggering loss of life from the pandemic will likely be impacting the lives and health of the bereaved for many years to come.”
The study also shows minority populations, specifically Black individuals, experienced a higher risk of death due to COVID, as well as those 60 years and older, married couples or people who had forgone treatment due to health care costs.
“This study showed that there have been major racial disparities in exposure to the loss of close friends or family due to COVID-19,” Willis said. “This is critical for understanding how the pandemic may shape health disparities moving forward because unequal death exposure is a contributor to racial health disparities.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million have died due to COVID in the U.S. The Arkansas Department of Health reports nearly 12,700 of those were Arkansans, and 72% of Arkansans who died from COVID (since February 2021) were not fully vaccinated.
UAMS offers the latest COVID booster at all of its primary care clinics, as well as mobile health events throughout the state. For more information or to view the schedule of upcoming mobile health events, visit nwa.uams.edu/covid.
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