Semester of Graduation

May 2021


Master of Social Work (MSW)


School of Social Work

Document Type



Continued response to the sum consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has disparately affected the physical and mental health of older minority adults in the United States. SARS-CoV-2 created an acute epidemiological crisis of public health coinciding with a chronic pandemic of accentuated psychosocial stress. Biological and socio-economic risk of morbidity and mortality follow a demographic gradient of subjectively constructed social status that disproportionally threatens older adults and minority racial/ethnic communities. Pathways to increased socio-economic and psychosocial vulnerability are multifactorial and complex. Factors of race, socio-economic status, gender, and age, each contribute to individualized profiles of vulnerability to risk exposure.

The prolonged duration and unique breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact across demographic, economic and societal domains reveals a paucity of current understanding within medical and mental health fields. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to explore the ways in which socio-economic and biopsychosocial risk factors accumulate during the COVID-19 pandemic for older adults in racial/ethnic minorities, and to examine the relationship between cumulative risk and mental health outcomes. We theoretically construct a COVID-19 Cumulative Risk Index (CRI) to predict mental health outcomes and to promote future research inclusive of older minority adults.

This cross-sectional study is the first of its kind to model cumulative risk utilizing data collected by the US Census Bureau’s 2020 Household Pulse Survey. Results from the CRI reveal that females and Persons of Color are at significantly greater risk of exposure to adverse events during the pandemic than males and Whites. Findings from hierarchal regression analyses demonstrate that as exposure to adverse events increases, so too does the likelihood of experiencing mental health symptoms of anxiety, depression, anhedonia, worry and a poor perception of personal health. The ramifications of this disaster on the mental health of older adults in racial/ethnic minorities will be long-lasting. Intense study of the continuously evolving factors that impinge dissimilarly and disproportionately on the outcomes of distinct demographic groups is necessary in order to develop and provide effective resources to those most severely impacted.

Committee Chair

Moon, Catherine