Pre-pandemic factors associated with delayed health care among US older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The journal of medicine access






COVID-19; NHATS; access to care; delayed care


BACKGROUND: During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than one-third of US older adults (aged 65 years and older) reported delaying medical care. Delayed health care may exacerbate short- and long-term health changes in older adults. Older adults more likely to delay health care may benefit from targeted follow-up to return these individuals to the health care system. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to describe pre-pandemic sociodemographic, psychological, cognitive, and medical factors associated with delayed health care among US older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. DESIGN: We conducted a secondary analysis of 2905 participants from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a nationally representative, prospective cohort of US older adult Medicare beneficiaries. METHODS: Pre-pandemic factors were reported at the Round 9 interview (2019). Delayed health care, including medical (e.g. usual doctor) and supplementary (e.g. dental) care, was reported on the COVID-19 questionnaire (2020). We calculated adjusted odds ratios using weighted logistic regression, accounting for the NHATS sampling design. RESULTS: Overall, 40% of participants reported delayed care. After adjustment, female participants and those reporting fair (vs good) health were consistently more likely to delay health care while persons with lower income or excellent health were less likely to delay care. Other associations varied by care type. CONCLUSION: Women and those with higher income or fair health before the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to delay care during the pandemic. Our results may inform targeted outreach to older adults who delayed care during the COVID-19 pandemic, or other disruptions to the health care system, to return these individuals to care and promote better management of their health needs.