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Non-intended health, economic and social effects of the COVID-19 epidemic control decisions: Lessons from SHARE (SHARE-COVID19)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SHARE-COVID19 (Non-intended health, economic and social effects of the COVID-19 epidemic control decisions: Lessons from SHARE (SHARE-COVID19))

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2021-10-31

The non-intended consequences of the epidemic control decisions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic are huge and affect the well-being of European citizens in terms of economics, social relationships and health. Europe is experiencing the largest recession since WWII; mobility, one of our basic rights, has been interrupted; social contacts have been reduced to a minimum; people have avoided seeking medical treatment in fear of infection.
The overarching objective of this project is to understand these non-intended consequences and to devise improved health, economic and social policies. In our policy recommendations, we strive to make healthcare systems and societies in the EU more resilient to pandemics in terms of prevention, protection and treatment of the population 50+ that includes a particularly vulnerable part of the population. The project aims to identify healthcare inequalities before, during and after the pandemic; to understand the lockdown effects on health and health behaviours; to analyse labour market implications of the lockdown; to assess the impacts of pandemic and lockdown on income and wealth inequality; to mitigate the effects of epidemic control decisions on social relationships; to optimise future epidemic control measures by taking the geographical patterns of the disease and their relationship with social patterns into account; and to better manage housing and living arrangements choices between independence, co-residence or institutionalisation.
The project is of utmost importance to our society as it transforms the insights of the SHARE team about the effects of COVID-19 into concrete policy advice. It pursues a transdisciplinary and internationally comparative approach by exploiting the data sources of the SHARE research infrastructure covering all EU MS. Combined with data from previous waves, the SHARE Corona Survey underpins SHARE’s socioeconomic impact in many fields. The project’s team represents medicine, public health, economics and sociology and has worked together for many years. It is experienced in translating data analysis into concrete policy advice. The project’s policy recommendations are targeted at policy makers in the Commission and in national ministries as well as at national and international NGOs and social organisations.
During the first reporting period, the project accomplished the following tasks:
• WP1 is responsible for setting up the timetable, adopting the contracts, organising meetings, and monitoring the budget for the implementation of the 2nd SHARE Corona Survey. The survey was carried out from June to August 2021 and yielded 50,490 interviews in 28 countries.
• WP2 analyses healthcare inequalities, limited access to essential healthcare services, forgone or postponed healthcare treatments, and quality of healthcare. Results show significant differences in accessing healthcare due to economic and medical vulnerabilities. Limited access to health care was more common for the occupationally active, women, the more educated and those living in urban areas.
• WP3 analyses physical and mental health, cognition, quality of life and well-being; protective behavior; policy effects on health; and health characteristics of resilient and fragile participants. Results show that there was a slightly higher risk of feeling lonely. In contrast, fewer participants felt ‘sad or depressed’, and fewer had sleeping problems. Stricter policies correlated with higher prevalence of protective behaviour.
• WP4 analyses the impact of occupation characteristics on working outcomes, the relation of job losses and work and income reduction, and the consequences of smart working on mental health. Results show that job characteristics have been major determinants of the probability of undergoing work interruptions and their duration. Women, self-employed and less educated workers have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
• WP5 analyses who faced the most severe economic consequences of the pandemic, the role of lockdown actions, employment status and changes in employment as drivers of financial difficulties and support. Results show that that education and income before the pandemic have a protective role, and so does being past retirement age. For households under retirement age, the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities.
• WP6 analyses social relationships (size of and contact intensity within network, help given and help received). Results show that providing personal care to parents increased in almost all European countries, while care to children decreased. In most countries, difficulties in receiving home care services from professional providers were reported. Face-to-face network contact significantly reduced negative mental health changes while electronic contact significantly increased them. Older Europeans responded strongly to the recommended protective behaviour measures, mostly due to fear of infection.
• WP7 has made detailed geographic data available for the research team under specified access policies. These data will now be fed into epidemiological models of the SEIR type. First results from WP7 show that older Europeans across the continent have reduced their daily activities quite substantially during the pandemic.
• WP8 analyses the health and well-being of individuals as a function of their housing conditions and living arrangements. Results show that the mental well-being of couples suffered, the one of single persons living with others (typically their children) improved. Living in a city became detrimental, especially in apartments. Excess mortality in nursing homes is observed in Central and Eastern European countries.
• WP9 has been responsible for the development of the questionnaire for the second round of the SHARE Corona Survey, data release, and dissemination. The new data was cleaned and linked it with the SHARE base panel to prepare the release of the data.
• WP10 is in charge of dissemination and communication of the research results and creating policy impact. The subwebsite for the SHARE-COVID19 project findings was created. Dissemination takes place via newsletter, social media or press release. Project members gave numerous interviews and talks presenting the initial results. The project fostered exchange with several projects and research networks.
Considering the ongoing crisis and the expected consequences, our expectations of impact on scientists, policy makers and social organisations are still relevant.
SHARE keeps increasing its user count. Currently, SHARE has more than 13,500 registered users from 79 countries all over the world and from a broad range of organisations and disciplines. With the release of the first round of the SHARE Corona Survey data, the publication count has even increased faster. Hence, this project had additional large impact on the research landscape well beyond the direct effects of this project.
Along with all findings to date, we are confident that we will deliver more policy-relevant results related to the non-intended effects of the epidemic control measures on older people’s physical and mental health, health behaviours, healthcare usage, employment and working conditions, income, social relationships, and housing and living arrangements until the end of the project.