A regression discontinuity analysis of the social distancing recommendations for older adults in Sweden during COVID-19.

Bonander C, Stranges D, Gustavsson J, Almgren M, Inghammar M, Moghaddassi M, Nilsson A, Pujol JC, Steves C, Franks PW, Gomez MF, Fall T, Björk J, COVID Symptom Study Sweden

Eur J Public Health - (-) - [2022-08-13; online 2022-08-13]

This paper investigates the impact of a non-mandatory and age-specific social distancing recommendation on isolation behaviors and disease outcomes in Sweden during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (March to July, 2020). The policy stated that people aged 70 years or older should avoid crowded places and contact with people outside the household. We used a regression discontinuity design-in combination with self-reported isolation data from COVID Symptom Study Sweden (n = 96,053; age range: 39-79 years) and national register data (age range: 39-100+ years) on severe COVID-19 disease (hospitalization or death, n = 21,804) and confirmed cases (n = 48,984)-to estimate the effects of the policy. Our primary analyses showed a sharp drop in the weekly number of visits to crowded places (-13%) and severe COVID-19 cases (-16%) at the 70-year-threshold. These results imply that the age-specific recommendations prevented approximately 1,800 to 2,700 severe COVID-19 cases, depending on model specification. It seems that the non-mandatory, age-specific recommendations helped control COVID-19 disease during the first wave of the pandemic in Sweden, as opposed to not implementing a social distancing policy aimed at older adults. Our study provides empirical data on how populations may react to non-mandatory, age-specific social distancing policies in the face of a novel virus. Online appendix with figures, tables, extra methods and results.

Category: Health

Type: Journal article

PubMed 35962987

DOI 10.1093/eurpub/ckac101

Crossref 10.1093/eurpub/ckac101

pii: 6665904

Publications 7.1.3