How is COVID-19 affecting people over 50?

A old woman or grandma is wearing a respirator or surgical mask and looking out of the window

A new study will investigate how fear of catching COVID-19 affects the lives of people over the age of 50.

The 18-month study will survey people aged 50 and over in Scotland. It will establish how the pandemic is influencing their decisions to socialise, visit family or attend medical appointments.

Decisions to get vaccinated

The survey will also ask whether fear will play a part in over 50s’ decision to get vaccinated against the virus.

Dr Elaine Douglas, a lecturer in global ageing at the University of Stirling will lead the project, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through UKRI’s COVID-19 rapid response initiative.

Douglas said:

COVID-19 has affected the way in which people connect, look after their health, work and spend. However, little is known about the role that COVID-19 fear plays in how people go about their everyday lives, particularly among older people, who are arguably most vulnerable to poor outcomes.

Our research will look at how people re-engage with society over the year ahead and provide insights for policy and public health messages.

Health, economic and social circumstances

The research is a new wave of the Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS) study established by Dr Douglas and economist Professor David Bell. HAGIS follows older people over time and collects data on their health, economic and social circumstances.

The new study will include economists, social scientists and health psychologists. It will produce regular, rapid reports and policy briefings. The first data will be published in summer 2021.

Douglas added:

This research will provide insight into how people can be supported back into everyday activities. It will provide important information for the NHS on how to support those with COVID-19 fear to attend hospital appointments, cancer screenings or other health-related appointments.

It will also give an idea of people’s willingness to return to the ‘physical’ workplace, to go shopping again, or to meet friends in restaurants. These activities are significant for our individual wellbeing as well as our economic recovery.

Last updated: 27 January 2021

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