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SHARE based COVID-19 Research

Journal Articles

Airaksinen, J., K. Komulainen, M. Jokela and K. Gluschkoff (2021): Big Five Personality Traits and COVID-19 Precautionary Behaviors among Older Adults in Europe. PsyArXiv Preprints. DOI: 10.31234/

Abstract: Objectives: Taking precaution against COVID-19 is important particularly among older adults who have a greater risk for severe illness if infected. We examined whether Big Five personality traits are associated with COVID-19 precautionary behaviors among older adults in Europe. Method: We used data from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (N=34 801). Personality was self-reported in 2017 using the BFI-10 inventory. COVID-19 precautionary behaviors – wearing a mask, limiting social contacts, and keeping distance to others – were assessed in the summer of 2020 through self-reports. Associations between personality and precautionary behaviors were examined with multilevel random-intercept logistic regression models. The models were adjusted for age, gender, educational attainment, and country of residence. Results: Higher conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness were associated with a greater likelihood of wearing a face mask. Higher neuroticism was associated with a greater likelihood of limiting social contacts, and higher agreeableness with a lower likelihood of limiting social contacts. Higher conscientiousness was associated with a greater likelihood of keeping distance to others. The associations between personality and practicing precautionary behaviors were relatively weak. Discussion: Among older adults, taking COVID-19 precautionary behaviors was most consistently related to higher conscientiousness and neuroticism, suggesting that precautionary behaviors may be motivated by multiple psychological differences.

Dasgupta, S. and J. Emmerling (2021): COVID-19 Lockdown Led to an Unprecedented Increase in Inequality. Research Square (online first). DOI: 10.21203/

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected households across the globe due to the health impacts but also through indirect socioeconomic effects as a result of the additional stress on the health systems, implications of the lockdowns and other policy measures undertaken by governments. Moreover, there is evidence that these impacts are associated with socioeconomic characteristics of households and could lead to an increase in inequality and poverty. In this paper, we conduct a first assessment based on household surveys in a large set of countries and analyze the determinants of income shocks at the household-level and macroeconomic inequality implications. While the average income losses of on average 4% but up to 27% are already high (similar to GDP losses in 2020 of on average 6% in our sample), we find an even more striking increase in inequality, of up to several points (1.2 points on average) of the typically very flat Gini index. Across countries, we find that on average an additional one percentage point loss in GDP was associated with an increase in the Gini by one percentage point. Analyzing the determinants of the income shock, we find strong evidence of heterogeneity with higher likelihood of income shocks for poorer, female-led, and less-educated households. The results indicate that we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis also in terms of economic inequality. The policy response to limit the macroeconomic repercussions therefore should explicitly include reducing inequality. Otherwise, a rebuilt macro-economy, will exhibit a much higher degree of social and economic inequality that are likely to persist.

Litwin, H. and M. Levinsky (2021): Social Networks and Mental Health Change in Older Adults After the Covid-19 Outbreak. Aging & Mental Health (online first). DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2021.1902468.

Abstract: Objectives. This article examines the influence of social networks on selected aspects of mental health following the outbreak of the coronavirus. Method. We linked data from a post outbreak telephone survey in 2020 by the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, with baseline data from SHARE Wave 6 (2016) (n = 33,485). Two mental health measures (depression and anxiety) were regressed on social network variables relevant to the Covid-19 crisis (frequency of face-to-face contact and frequency of contact through electronic means), controlling for confounders. Interactions of age group and social networks were considered. Baseline mental health was controlled, focusing the analysis on post-outbreak mental health change. Results. Face-to-face network contact significantly reduced negative mental health changes while electronic contact significantly increased them. The age interactions were insignificant. Country differences were observed. Conclusion. The findings suggest that face-to-face social networks can moderate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on important aspects of mental health.

Maltagliati, S., S. Sieber, P. Sarrazin, S. Cullati, A. Chalabaev, G. P. Millet, M. P. Boisgontier and B. Cheval (2021): Muscle Strength Explains the Protective Effect of Physical Activity against COVID-19 Hospitalization among Adults aged 50 Years and Older. medRxiv preprint. DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.25.21252451.

Abstract: Physical activity has been proposed as a protective factor for COVID-19 hospitalization. However, the mechanisms underlying this association are unclear. Here, we examined the association between physical activity and COVID-19 hospitalization and whether this relationship was explained by other risk factors for severe COVID-19. Method: We used data from adults aged 50 years and older from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. The outcome was self-reported hospitalization due to COVID-19 measured before August 2020. The main exposure was usual physical activity, self-reported between 2004 and 2017. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models. Results Among the 3139 participants included in the study (69.3 ± 8.5 years, 1763 women), 266 were tested positive for COVID-19 and 66 were hospitalized. Results showed that individuals who engaged in physical activity more than once a week had lower odds of COVID-19 hospitalization than individuals who hardly ever or never engaged in physical activity (odds ratios = 0.41, 95% confidence interval = 0.22–0.74, p = .004). This association between physical activity and COVID-19 hospitalization was explained by muscle strength, but not by other risk factors. Conclusion These findings suggest that, after 50 years of age, engaging in physical activity more than once a week is associated with lower odds of COVID-19 hospitalization. The protective effect of physical activity on COVID-19 hospitalization is explained by muscle strength.

Rachaniotis, N. P., T. K. Dasaklis, F. Fotopoulos and P. Tinios (2021): A Two-Phase Stochastic Dynamic Model for COVID-19 Mid-Term Policy Recommendations in Greece: A Pathway towards Mass Vaccination. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18(5). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18052497.

Abstract: From 7 November 2020, Greece adopted a second nationwide lockdown policy to mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the first took place from 23 March to 4 May 2020), just as the second wave of COVID-19 was advancing, as did other European countries. To secure the full benefits of mass vaccination, which started in early January 2021, it is of utmost importance to complement it with mid-term non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). The objective was to minimize human losses and to limit social and economic costs. In this paper a two-phase stochastic dynamic network compartmental model (a pre-vaccination SEIR until 15 February 2021 and a post-vaccination SVEIR from 15 February 2021 to 30 June 2021) is developed. Three scenarios are assessed for the first phase: (a) A baseline scenario, which lifts the national lockdown and all NPIs in January 2021; (b) a “semi-lockdown” scenario with school opening, partial retail sector operation, universal mask wearing, and social distancing/teleworking in January 2021; and (c) a “rolling lockdown” scenario combining a partial lifting of measures in January 2021 followed by a third nationwide lockdown in February 2021. In the second phase three scenarios with different vaccination rates are assessed. Publicly available data along with some first results of the SHARE COVID-19 survey conducted in Greece are used as input. The results regarding the first phase indicate that the “semi-lockdown” scenario clearly outperforms the third lockdown scenario (5.7% less expected fatalities); the second phase is extremely sensitive on the availability of sufficient vaccine supplies and high vaccination rates.

Working Papers 

Arnault, L., F. Jusot and T. Renaud (2021): Social Inequalities in Access to Healthcare among the Population Aged 50+ years During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Europe. SHARE Working Paper Series 58-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich. DOI: 10.17617/2.3289765.

Abstract: This study investigated social inequalities in access to healthcare during the first wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic in Europe among adults aged 50 years and older, using data from the regular administration of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the specific telephone survey administered regarding COVID-19 (SHARE Corona Survey). It addressed three main research questions: did people who were in difficult economic situations before the epidemic face more barriers to access healthcare than others? If so, to what extent can these discrepancies be attributed to initial differences in health status and the use of care between social groups or to differential effects of the pandemic on these groups? Did social inequalities with regard to unmet needs during the pandemic differ across countries? Unmet healthcare needs are characterised by three types of behaviours likely to be induced by the pandemic: forgoing care for fear of contracting COVID-19, having pre-scheduled care postponed, and being unable to obtain medical appointments or treatments when needed. Our results substantiate the existence of social inequalities in accessing healthcare during the pandemic and of cumulative effects of economic and medical vulnerabilities: the impact of economic vulnerability is notably stronger among those who were in poor health before the outbreak and thus are potentially the oldest individuals. The cross-country comparison highlighted heterogeneous effects of economic vulnerability on forgoing care and having care postponed among countries, which are not comparable to the initial cross-country differences in social inequalities in access to healthcare.

Atzendorf, J. and S. Gruber (2021): The Mental Well-being of Older Adults after the First Wave of COVID-19. SHARE Working Paper Series 63-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich. DOI: 10.17617/2.3292887.

Abstract: Epidemic control measures that aim to introduce social distancing help to decelerate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, their consequences in terms of mental well-being might be negative, especially for older adults. While existing studies mainly focus on the time during the first lockdown, we look at the weeks afterwards in order to measure the medium-term consequences of the first wave of the pandemic. Using data from the SHARE Corona Survey, we include retired respondents aged 60 and above from 26 European countries plus Israel. Combining SHARE data with macro data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker allows us to include macro indicators at the country level, namely deaths per 100,000 population and the number of days with stringent epidemic control measures, in addition to individual characteristics. The findings show that both macro indicators are influential for increased feelings of sadness/depression, but that individual factors are crucial for explaining increased feelings of loneliness in the time after the first lockdown. Models with interaction terms reveal that the included macro indicators have negative well-being consequences, particularly for the oldest survey participants. Additionally, the results reveal that those living alone had a higher risk for worsened mental well-being in the time after the first COVID-19 wave.

Bergmann, M. and M. Wagner (2021): Caregiving and Care Receiving Across Europe in Times of COVID-19. SHARE Working Paper Series 59-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich.

Abstract: The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the European countries at the beginning of 2020. This has become particularly problematic for those in need for personal care as related epidemiological control measures (physical distancing, stay-at-home requirements etc.) installed in almost all European countries strongly affected the possibility to provide care to others as well as to receive care from people outside the own household. Against this background, this paper focus on how caregivers and care recipients living at home (the non-institutionalized) dealt with the situation using preliminary data from the 8th wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) until its suspension in March 2020 and the SHARE Corona Survey fielded from June to August 2020. Concretely, we analyzed the effects of the pandemic as well as accompanying public health measures on those giving as well as receiving personal care by exploring country differences on COVID-19-related changes. Our results show that giving personal care to parents has increased, while care to children, in turn, has decreased. Further, about one out of five care recipients had difficulties in obtaining personal care during the pandemic, which was mainly because carers could not come to the home of the care recipients. In addition, country differences played an important role in explaining perceived difficulties in receiving home care and hence are an important starting point for policy makers and social organizations.

Bertoni, M., M. Celidoni, C. Dal Bianco and G.  Weber (2021): How did European Retirees Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic? SHARE Working Paper Series 61-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich. DOI: 10.17617/2.3291835.

Abstract: We investigate the role of retirement on the adoption of preventive behaviours and on mental health during the first wave of the pandemic. We address the endogeneity of the timing of retirement using variation in early retirement and old-age pension eligibility. We find that those who retired earlier responded to the pandemic by limiting their mobility more, and by adopting stricter preventive behaviours in public. These limitations did not hamper their mental health.

Bíró, A., R. Branyiczki and P. Elek (2021): Time Patterns of Precautionary Health Behaviours During an Easing Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Europe. SHARE Working Paper Series 57-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich.

Abstract: Using data from the COVID19 questionnaire of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we investigate the time patterns of precautionary health behaviours of individuals aged 50 and above during the summer of 2020, an easing phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. We also examine how these health behaviours differ by the presence of chronic conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol level, heart disease, diabetes or chronic bronchitis, which can be considered as risk factors for COVID-19. Our results suggest that while on average, people became less precautious during our analysed time period, this is less so for those who are at higher risk. We also document large regional differences in precautionary health behaviours and show that higher risk individuals are on average more cautious in all regions. We conclude that people adjusted their health behaviours in line with the generally understood risk of the COVID-19 disease. At the same time, our results also point out divergences in the level of willingness to take different precautionary steps.

Brugiavini, A., R. E. Buia and I. Simonetti (2021): Occupation and Working Outcomes during the Coronavirus Pandemic. SHARE Working Paper Series 60-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich. DOI: 10.17617/2.3291840.

Abstract: Using data from the recent SHARE Corona Survey and additional information collected in the previous waves of SHARE, we explore the effects of occupation’s characteristics on two outcomes: (i) the probability of work interruptions during the pandemic, coupled with the length of such interruptions and (ii) the probability of switching to homeworking during the lockdown. In order to assess how job features affected the likelihood of having experienced work interruptions or shifted to teleworking, we define six occupation categories by classifying the ISCO job titles according to two criteria: the safety level of the occupation and the essential (unessential) nature of the good or service provided. We find that characteristics of the occupation are major determinants of the probability of experiencing work interruptions and determine the length of such interruptions.  Working from home also largely depends on the features of the job, even controlling for many other covariates at the individual level. In addition, we show that labour market outcomes of women, selfemployed and less educated workers are negatively affected by the pandemic to a much larger extent than men.

Fors Connolly, F., J. Olofsson, G. Malmberg and M. Stattin (2021): Adjustment of Daily Activities to Restrictions and Reported Spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic across Europe. SHARE Working Paper Series 62-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich. DOI: 10.17617/2.3292885.

Abstract: This paper addresses adjustments of daily activities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic among people aged 50 years and older in Europe, and investigates the extent to which such adjustments are associated with the stringency of governmental restrictions and the overall spread of COVID-19. We use data from the SHARE Corona Survey collected during summer 2020, published data on government response stringency, and reported country-specific prevalence and mortality of COVID-19. Our analyses show that older Europeans across the continent have reduced their daily activities quite substantially during the pandemic. However, we observe variation across countries and demographic groups, which may be important to highlight for policymakers. Our explanatory analysis replicates previous studies using mobility data, showing that both restrictions and infections predict a reduction in mobility. Thus, policymakers could potentially rely on both restrictions and voluntary adjustments in order to decrease the spread of the virus. However, it is noteworthy that we find relatively weaker associations with restrictions compared to previous studies using mobility data. One explanation for this discrepancy could be that our study focuses on older people, who face a higher risk of becoming severely ill and therefore have stronger incentives to adjust their behaviours independent of governmental regulations.

Sand, G. and J. Bristle(2021): The Relationship of Threat Perceptions and Optimistic Attitude with Protective Behavior in the COVID-19 Crisis. SHARE Working Paper Series 64-2021. Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA). Munich. DOI: 10.17617/2.3309027.

Abstract: Mortality in the COVID-19 crisis is highest among older adults and other vulnerable groups. Based on Protection Motivation Theory and using data from the first SHARE Corona Survey, we investigate how threat perceptions and optimistic attitudes are associated with motivation to engage in protective behavior in the population 50+. Multivariate regression analyses are based on a sample of more than 30,000 individuals from 26 countries. Our results show that around 15 percent of all respondents stayed home completely during the initial phase of the COVID-19 crisis—mainly the elderly aged and those with prior health risk conditions. On average, older Europeans responded strongly to the recommended protective behavior measures (6 out of 7 measures adopted). While feeling more anxious than before Corona and fear of infection are the main motivators for protective behavior, an optimistic outlook into the future shows an equally strong association with protective behavior. Optimistic attitudes are the strongest predictor in the Czech Republic, France, Luxembourg, and Sweden—all countries with high levels of trust in their health care systems. In contrast, fear is the strongest predictor in Estonia, Latvia, Finland and Poland—all countries with below average mortality rates. We further hypothesize that the influence of threat appraisal and optimistic attitudes vary based on contextual severity of and perceived institutional protection against COVID-19 (measured as COVID-19 mortality, stringency of control measures, and trust in the health care system). We find that the influence of personal exposure varies and can be observed mainly in country groups with high COVID-19 mortality, medium stringency, and high trust in the health care system. Against the background of negative, long-term health effects of fear and the situation of a long-term crisis, the results of this study may help evaluate and revise governmental policy responses and communication strategies.

(last Update 01. April 2021)