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The effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on people over 50

4 min read

This report was published in 2020. Explore our latest research here.

In December 2020, SunLife asked people over 50 to complete an online survey that discussed how the Covid-19 pandemic had affected them so far, looking at their lifestyle, employment and personal finances.

Read on to see our findings – a snapshot in time of life for over 50s during one of the toughest parts of the pandemic.

1. Report background

The research was commissioned in December 2020.

In total, 1,051 online interviews were completed with people over 50 via an online panel.

Our aim was to get an accurate picture of what people over 50 have experienced and are currently experiencing due to the pandemic.

The data has been weighted to nationally representative profiles and explores the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on their lifestyle, employment and personal finances.

Over 1,000 interviews were completed

  • 71% of those asked own their own home either with a mortgage or outright.
  • 54% own their home outright
  • 17% own their home with a mortgage
  • 64% of respondents are married or living as married
  • 40% are retired, and 28% are working full time.
  • Average household income is £27,500.

Employment status

28% in full time employment


4% Self-employed


11% in part time employment


6% Unemployed


0% Student

7% Full-time responsibility for home/family


40% Retired


2% Other


2. Current circumstances


Just under 1 in 10 have lost their job during the pandemic period.

1 in 6 were furloughed.

Amongst those currently in full-time employment, one third (34%) were furloughed.

Sectors with the highest proportion of individuals furloughed included the hospitality sector and those working in the construction sector.


21% of people asked have supported their family members during the Covid-19 crisis, most often by gifting them money.

Over 1 in 5 have supported their family financially during the crisis.

1 in 6 have had their working hours or pay cut during the pandemic.

Almost half of business owners had reduced their working hours.

And 1 in 8 had their pensions affected by the pandemic – with average monthly contributions falling by just over half since the pandemic began.

Average pension contribution before the pandemic per month (average) Average pension contribution now per month (average)
£75 £35

Mental health

A third of all over 50s asked have seen a decline in their mental health during the pandemic.

But, many (56%) still remain hopeful for the next 12 months.

3. Impact on personal finances

A quarter of respondents said they were financially worse off due to the crisis.

4 in 10 say the pandemic has made them feel differently about their money.

Top mentions of why they are worse off financially include salary cuts, increased bills and furlough.

These individuals report being worse off by an average of £300 a month. This can have a big impact on outgoings – from everyday costs like groceries and petrol, to future-proofing costs like over 50s life insurance and funeral cover.

Which of the following reasons best describe why this is the case [worse off]:

30% Hours or salary cut


29% Bills have increased


25% Furloughed


15% Lost my job


9% Pension impacted


7% Business forced to shut


6% Change in government support/benefit entitlements


6% Lower interest rates/returns on my investments


5% Loved ones employment status changed


2% Loss of rent on property


3% Something else


Of those who said they are better off, most attribute this to the fact they are spending less.

1 in 6 said their income increased during lockdown.

On average, those who are better off are better off by £200 a month.

1 in 7 had to do something drastic during the pandemic to make ends meet.

This included selling belongings, taking out a pension lump sum, taking out a loan and taking a mortgage holiday. The number of people choosing to release cash from their home with equity release also went up.*

4. Impact on lifestyle

Over 4 in 10 of those who work full time say their work/life balance has improved because of the crisis.


People are spending more time reading, gardening and cooking. 26% say they have a better work/life balance due to lockdown. And 44% of those in full-time employment say they have a better work/life balance.

Staying in touch

4 in 10 over 50s had never had a video call before the pandemic – compared to just a quarter now. Half expect to continue using video calls to keep in touch with others.


4 in 10 over 50s had a holiday booked in 2020 – 26% abroad, and 19% in the UK. But 8 in 10 had to cancel their holiday.

Things to look forward to

We asked if there was anything people had been forced to change during the pandemic that they'll continue to do – even when they don’t have to.

Top mentions included ‘walking more’, ‘going out less’ and ‘staying 2m away from everyone.'

Just 1% said they will no longer provide childcare for their grandchildren.

We asked the thing they hate most about lockdown. Most notably, people mentioned not being able to see their family and friends, not being able to travel and having restrictions imposed on their life.

We also asked what they’re most looking forward to when the pandemic is over.

Their responses, in order of most popular to least popular, are below:

  1. Holidays/travelling
  2. Seeing my grandchildren
  3. Seeing my children
  4. Not wearing a face mask
  5. Hugging people
  6. Being in someone else's house/having people at my house
  7. Meeting more than one friend
  8. A pint without a substantial meal
  9. Shopping freely
  10. Sporting events
  11. Haircuts
  12. Going to festivals/gigs
  13. Not sanitising my hands every 5 seconds
  14. Going back to church
  15. Not seeing little '2 metre' feet all over the pavements
  16. Having sex with a partner that I don't live with
  17. Dating (again)
  18. Seeing my partner that I don't live with
  19. Playing team sports (again)
  20. Pampering - nails/facials etc
  21. Going back to my art/pottery/WI meetings
  22. Going back to my yoga/dance/Zumba/spin/legs, bums and tums class

Over 50s are most looking forward to travelling again, along with seeing their children and grandchildren.

Useful resources for support:

Mind( opens in a new tab)

AgeUK( opens in a new tab)

RedCross( opens in a new tab)


* opens in a new tab)

The thoughts and opinions expressed in the page are those of the authors, intended to be informative, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SunLife. See our Terms of Use for more info.