The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Unmet Healthcare Needs in People Aged Over 50 in Portugal

Óscar Lourenço, Carlota Quintal, Luís Moura-Ramos, Micaela Antunes


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of healthcare appointments and to lower demand, which generated unmet healthcare needs. The aim of this study was to evaluate their prevalence and distribution in Portugal.
Material and Methods: Data came from the ‘Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe’. Between June and August 2020, 1118 Portuguese individuals aged 50 or over were inquired about unmet healthcare needs due to: i) fear of getting infected; ii) cancellation by the doctor/healthcare services; iii) unsuccessful consultation request. The analysis of the prevalence of unmet needs was complemented by the calculation of the concentration indices as a function of the variables: income, education and health status.
Results: About 60% of respondents reported at least one unmet need, which was almost twice the European average. Motive ii) cancellation by the doctor/healthcare services was the most frequent. The prevalence of unmet needs differed depending on income level and health status. The indices evidence the concentration of unmet needs in individuals with the worst health status, although for the reason fear of infection the concentration occurred in those with higher levels of income and education.
Conclusion: Our study showed a high prevalence of unmet needs and their concentration in individuals with worse health status. Given the association between unmet needs and the subsequent deterioration of health, these results should raise concerns about the near future.


COVID-19; Health Care Quality, Access, and Evaluation; Needs Assessment; Socioeconomic Inequalities

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