Overwhelmed health capacities led to unmet healthcare needs of Europeans 50+


During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to healthcare has been reduced especially for economically deprived and patients with poor or worsening health status, making older patients increasingly vulnerable

Through the global outbreak of COVID-19, healthcare capacities became overwhelmed even in many developed countries. One result was that barriers to accessing healthcare became unprecedentedly high. A research team around Croatian SHARE Country Team leader Šime Smolić has measured to what extent unmet healthcare needs varied between and within European countries.

For their analysis, the researchers, located at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, combined data from the first SHARE Corona Survey (Wave 8 CATI) and SHARE Wave 7 for over 40,000 respondents from 25 European countries and Israel. In doing so, they bring together information on the experiences with healthcare access in the population aged 50+ from before and during the pandemic. This allows them to identify particularly disadvantaged groups in the population and distinguish between how older EU member states from before 2004 and the newer, post-socialist EU countries have handled the health crisis.

They find strong country-specific discrepancies and conclude that individuals with a disadvantageous economic situation or chronic diseases were made more vulnerable due to restricted access to healthcare. Further, individuals with higher education as well as people living in urban areas perceived stronger healthcare barriers during the pandemic. Contrary to widespread believe, the oldest old (aged 80+) were less likely to experience barriers in accessing healthcare compared to the younger, usually occupationally active old (aged 50-64).


For a more comprehensive summary of the study, click here.

Study by Šime Smolić, Ivan Čipin and Petra Međimurec (2021). Access to healthcare for people aged 50+ in Europe during the COVID-19 outbreak. European Journal of Ageing. DOI: 10.1007/s10433-021-00631-9.