Introduction Public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have reaped adverse physical, psychological, social and economic effects, with older adults disproportionally affected. Psychological consequences of the pandemic include fear, worry and anxiety. COVID-19 fear may impact individuals’ mitigation behaviours, influencing their willingness to (re)engage in health, social and economic behaviours. This study seeks (1) to develop a robust and evidence-based questionnaire to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 fear among older adults (aged ≥50) in Scotland and (2) to examine the impact of COVID-19 fear on the willingness of older adults to (re)engage across health, social and economic domains as society adjusts to the ‘new normal’ and inform policy and practice.

Methods and analysis This mixed-method study includes a large-scale multimodal survey, focus groups and interviews with older adults (aged ≥50) living in Scotland, and an email-based ‘e-Delphi’ consultation with professionals working with older adults. The COVID-19 fear scale was developed and validated using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. Survey data will be analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Thematic analysis will be used to analyse qualitative data. Survey and qualitative findings will be triangulated and used as the starting point for an ‘e-Delphi’ consensus consultation with expert stakeholders.

Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval has been obtained from the University of Stirling for multimodal survey development, fieldwork methodology and data management. Anonymised survey data will be deposited with the UK Data Service, with a link provided via the Gateway to Global Ageing. Qualitative data will be deposited with the University of Stirling online digital repository—DataSTORRE. A dedicated work package will oversee dissemination via a coproduced project website, conference presentations, rapid reports and national and international peer-reviewed journal articles. There is planned engagement with Scottish and UK policy makers to contribute to the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Cite as

Arakelyan, S., Brown, T., McCabe, L., McGregor, L., Comerford, D., Dawson, A., Bell, D., Douglas, C., Houston, J. & Douglas, E. 2023, 'The social, health and economic impact of COVID-19 – Healthy Ageing In Scotland (HAGIS): a protocol for a mixed-methods study', BMJ Open, 13(2), article no: e061427. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2022-061427

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Last updated: 03 May 2023
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