EBRI Issue Brief

The Elderly and the COVID Pandemic: Early Findings on the Impact on Health, Mental Well-Being, and Financial Situation

Jul 15, 2021 13  pages


Using early releases of data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) COVID-19 Project survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) examines the various impacts of the pandemic on older Americans’ health, mental well-being, and financial situation. The bottom line is that the responses within the HRS depict an older population that was clearly impacted by the pandemic but that was — overall — remarkably resilient. However, the data also identify key areas of concern as well, including lower wealth and those near or early in retirement.

  • Survey respondents rated worries about health as high, especially compared with other stressors.
  • Still, most older individuals reported being able to obtain needed medical care.
  • At the same time, the decision not to see a medical professional — when it occurred — was more often than not something that was out of the control of the individual such as the care provider canceling, closing, or rescheduling.
  • While most respondents reported experiencing a disruption in their contact with family and friends, few found these disruptions extremely stressful.
  • The majority of survey respondents reported no change in their income following the pandemic; however, 17 percent reported that their income decreased, and the younger age cohort (67 and younger) was disproportionately affected.
  • Also, those 67 and younger were also disproportionately affected by job loss.
    • It is important to recognize that those in their pre- or early retirement years who disproportionately experienced job loss, reduced income, and difficulty paying bills due to the pandemic may now struggle to achieve a secure retirement.

Health and Retirement Study (HRS), public use dataset. Produced and distributed by the University of Michigan with funding from the National Institute on Aging (grant number NIA U01AG009740). Ann Arbor, MI (1992–2016).