WASHINGTON – July 15, 2021 – The Employee Benefit Research Institute has released a new study examining the impact of the pandemic on older Americans’ health, mental wellbeing, and financial situation, based on early data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) Covid Project survey. “Elderly and the COVID Pandemic: Early Findings on the Impact on Health, Mental Wellbeing and Financial Situation” explores the psychological impact of the pandemic, its impact on the elderly's access to healthcare, and the economic effects and hardship caused by the pandemic on the elderly.
The report finds respondents were most concerned about their family's health, rating that 6.6 on average, based on a scale of 1 (not at all worried) to 10 (very worried). Concerns about their own health ranked second at 5.5. Financial concerns and about being able to get help as needed, in turn, ranked materially lower; and worries about what will happen in the future scored fairly low, at 2.4, on average. A third of respondents cited disruption in their contacts with family and friends as moderately stressful, while only 13 percent found this extremely stressful.
While most survey respondents reported no change in their income following the pandemic, those age 67 and younger were disproportionately likely to say their income was affected.
“Given that loss of work generally was the greatest financial impact of the Covid pandemic, it is unsurprising that older workers—who are more likely to be retired—tended to rate concerns about health, not finances, as a top stressor. Even with health-related anxieties, however, many older adults remained remarkably resilient,” said Zahra Ebrahimi, EBRI Research Associate and author of the report. “Still, It is important to recognize that younger respondents in their pre- or early retirement years who experienced the adverse economic effects of the pandemic may now struggle to achieve a secure retirement.”
Lower-wealth individuals also experienced a greater impact from the pandemic, with one in five finding it hard to purchase food even though they had money. They were also more likely to miss paying medical bills, mortgages, utilities, credit cards, and other debts, and to report not having enough money to purchase food.