Healthcare utilisation and physical activities for older adults with comorbidities in the UK during COVID-19

Jiunn Wang*, Anne Spencer, Claire Hulme, Anne Corbett, Zunera Khan, Miguel Vasconcelos Da Silva, Siobhan O’Dwyer, Natalie Wright, Ingelin Testad, Clive Ballard, Byron Creese, Richard Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A major concern with COVID-19 was the impact it would have on individual health, the routine use of healthcare services, and physical activities, especially for older adults with comorbidities. To address this, we studied the association between these variables for older adults during the pandemic. To explore what policy instruments might be effective in mitigating the negative impacts, we investigated the effects of a shielding notice for those identified as vulnerable by the government and social media given it has been an important source for disseminating information of COVID-19. We employed a UK sample with 3,807 participants aged ≥50 from an online survey administered during May and June 2020. Based on numbers of comorbidities, we separated the sample into a higher comorbidity group with those in the upper quartile of the sample (n = 829) and a lower comorbidity group with the remainder (n = 2,978). Statistical methods include chi-squared analyses and cross-sectional regressions. We found that individuals with higher comorbidities were more likely to have poorer self-reported health and mental health and to receive a shielding notice from the government compared to those without (p < 0.05). Decreases in physical activities were associated with poorer self-reported health and the increases were associated with better self-reported health; on the other hand, the decreases were associated with poorer mental health, but the increases did not link to better mental health. Examination of the effects of policy instruments shows that a shielding notice was positively associated with primary care use. The notice generated greater reliance on telephone/video consultations compared to in-person consultations, but the impacts were less strong for people with higher comorbidities. Frequent use of social media raised the probability of increasing physical activities and reduced that of decreasing physical activities, implying social media being an effective tool in promoting physical activities during the lockdown and subsequent restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Early online date9 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Dec 2021


  • comorbidity
  • COVID-19
  • healthcare utilisation
  • older adults
  • physical activity
  • shielding
  • social media


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