Poverty in old age in times of COVID-19—Empirical results from Austria

Publikation: Beitrag in Fachzeitschrift (peer-reviewed)Artikel in Fachzeitschrift


Early in the pandemic, researchers were cautioning that COVID-19 and the associated health policy countermeasures would have an increased negative impact on groups that were already vulnerable before the pandemic. One of these groups are older people affected by poverty, who according to official figures make up 13.9% of older population in Austria. Even before the pandemic, their living situation was considered precarious. Not without reason, this group has been identified as a high-risk group of the pandemic, due to their increased likelihood of severe COVID-19 related illness and their limited monetary resources and thus lower chances of coping with the pandemic. Nevertheless, research on this group has remained sparse to date. Therefore, the aim of the study is to focus on older people (60+ years) below the poverty line and to compare them with non-poor individuals. Data from the SHARE (Survey of Health Aging and Retirement in Europe) project is used, combining data from the two SHARE Corona Surveys (summer 2020 and summer 2021) and the SHARE Corona Special Austria Survey (December 2020) to gain the most complete picture of life situation during the pandemic. Results demonstrate that older people in poverty were more likely to report poor subjective health before as well as during the pandemic yet were significantly more likely to refuse vaccination against COVID-19, despite adhering to other measures against the pandemic to the same extent as non-poor people. Restrictions in the health care system affected both groups equally and no significant differences in the frequency of social contacts could be found. However, older people below the poverty line were significantly more likely to rely on social support to obtain necessities during the pandemic and were less likely to use the internet. Together, these results point out that disadvantage exist for the older poor in some but not all areas of life during the pandemic. This paper is aimed at providing first insights into the lives of poor older persons during a taxing time and may perhaps inspire more in-depth study of this particularly understudied population.

FachzeitschriftFrontiers in Public Health
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 17 Nov. 2022


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