SHARE's contribution to research about the social, health and economic impact of COVID-19
In the beginning of June, the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) started the fieldwork of a new “SHARE COVID-19 survey”. A sub-sample of SHARE’s panel respondents is being interviewed via a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) to collect data on the same topics as in the regular SHARE questionnaire - but shortened and targeted to the COVID-19 living situation of people who are 50 years and older.
The data collected with this questionnaire will allow examining in-depth how the risk group of the older individuals is coping with the health-related and socioeconomic impact of COVID-19. The great advantage of these data will be the possibility to measure and interpret differences in a cross-country and a longitudinal dimension. SHARE’s embeddedness in a worldwide network of harmonized ageing surveys permits European and even worldwide comparisons of how well the healthcare and social systems have responded to the pandemic and which lessons should be drawn for the future. Moreover, the use of data from previous waves allows comparing this crisis’ socioeconomic impact with previous hardships, for example the economic crisis in 2008.
Switch to telephone interviewing during the COVID-19-pandemic
The outbreak of COVID-19 hit SHARE in the middle of its 8th Wave of data collection and the fieldwork had to be suspended in all participating countries in March 2020. At this point in time, about 70 percent of all expected longitudinal and 50 percent of all expected refreshment interviews across countries had been done (Refreshment interviews are conducted in new samples of respondents that had not yet participated in SHARE in order to compensate for the ageing of the panel by recruiting the younger age-cohorts and to compensate for panel sample size reduction due to deceases, illness, and refusals.)
To resume fieldwork, a switch to telephone administered interviews (CATI) was decided. Based on methodological considerations in connection with the health protection of respondents and interviewers, the use of CATI was the preferred alternative to the previous face-to-face-interviewing. The considerations underlying this choice are described in more detail in the publication referenced at the end of this text.
Items on the SHARE COVID-19 questionnaire
As a reaction to the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak and the prolonged lockdowns, a special SHARE COVID-19 questionnaire was developed. This new questionnaire covers the most important life domains for the target population and asks specific questions about infections and changes in life during the lockdown:
- Health and health behaviour
General health before and after the COVID-19 outbreak, practice of safety measures (e.g. social distancing, wearing a mask)
- Mental health
Anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, and loneliness before and after the COVID-19 outbreak
- Infections and healthcare
COVID-19 related symptoms, SARS-CoV-2 testing and hospitalization, forgone medical treatment, satisfaction with treatments
- Changes in work and economic situation
Unemployment, business closures, working from home, changes in working hours and income, financial support
- Social networks
Changes in personal contacts with family and friends, help given and received, personal care given and received.
You can find the COVID-19 questionnaire online (version as of: June 02, 2020).
Adaptation of sample design
For the new CATI instrument on the COVID-19 outbreak, a sample was selected in each country that included 1) panel members who had not been interviewed before the suspension of fieldwork and 2) panel members who had already been interviewed in Wave 8. Overall, more than 80,000 eligible respondents could be fielded. Both respondent groups received the same questionnaire; the only difference is that the panel members who had not been interviewed face-to-face in Wave 8 were asked questions on changes in the household composition since their last interview. Respondents who had already been asked in Wave 8 did not have to answer these questions again. Re-interviewing offers the possibility to substantively explore changes in the respondents’ social networks and health behaviour due to the COVID-19 crisis, their self-rated (mental) health, or their economic situation. In addition, the selection of already/ not yet interviewed panel members allows methodological research about effects on (non-)response, measurement error, and survey/ fieldwork costs regarding the SHARE COVID-19 questionnaire. This is the basis for reliable empirical results in the field of social sciences and is particularly important when changing interview mode.
Implications for future waves of SHARE
The continuation of SHARE Wave 8 by asking a special SHARE COVID-19 questionnaire over the phone is being carried out in 27 European countries and Israel from June until August 2020. In addition, SHARE will include parts of the SHARE COVID-19 questionnaire also in the following panel waves to study the long-term impact of COVID-19. This will, for example, allow to compare how the high-risk group of older respondents coped with the crisis, how the national healthcare and social systems responded to the pandemic, and which lessons for the future should be drawn from the very different political reactions of the SHARE countries towards the pandemic.
More detailed information on methodological adaptions and the innovations of this new questionnaire can be found in:
Scherpenzeel, A., Axt, K., Bergmann, M., Douhou, S., Oepen, A., Sand, G., Schuller, K., Stuck, S., Wagner, M., & Börsch-Supan, A. (2020). Collecting survey data among the 50+ population during the COVID-19 outbreak: The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Survey Research Methods, 14(2), 217-221.