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Job loss and lower healthcare utilisation due to COVID-19 among older adults across 27 European countries


Background Older adults are at greater risk for becoming severely ill from COVID-19; however, the impact of the pandemic on their economic activity and non-COVID-19-related healthcare utilisation is not well understood. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence and predictors of COVID-19-related unemployment and healthcare utilisation in a sample of older adults across 27 European countries.

Methods We used data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe COVID-19 Survey, collected between June and August 2020. Participants (n=52 061) reported whether they lost a job, forwent medical treatment and whether their appointment was postponed due to COVID-19. Three-level models were estimated for each outcome to test the effects of individual, household and country-level characteristics.

Results The mean prevalence of reported job loss, and forgone and postponed medical care was 19%, 12% and 26%, respectively. Job loss was associated with female sex, lower education and household income, and older age in women. For example, the OR of job loss, comparing primary versus tertiary (college) education, was 1.89 (95% CI 1.59 to 2.26). Forgone and postponed medical care was associated with older age in men, female sex and higher education. At the country level, postponed medical care was associated with more stringent governmental anti-COVID measures.

Conclusion Job loss and lower healthcare utilisation for non-COVID-19-related reasons were common among older adults and were associated with several sociodemographic characteristics. Job loss appeared to disproportionally affect already economically vulnerable individuals, raising concerns about the exacerbation of social inequalities.

  • COVID-19
  • multilevel modelling
  • economics
  • unemployment

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) are available for research purposes only. Access to the SHARE data is provided on the basis of a release policy after individual registration. Details about the application and registration process can be found here:

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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