Findings from a nationwide survey has found that almost a fifth of respondents under the age of 25 report feeling anxious as the country emerges from lockdown while older people are most concerned about contracting the virus.
The findings are from phase four of the Corona Citizens’ Science Study*, a population-wide survey conducted by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics (NUI Galway) looking at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lockdown, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland.
Over 2,500 people responded to the survey.
50% indicated that they feel the government is balancing the removal of restrictions with that of social and economic well-being.
52% of respondents reported wearing face masks while 73% said they would wear a face mask if it meant reducing the distance from 2 metres to 1 metre.
Half of all respondents said they adhered to all the restrictions that were in place while 44% said they broke some of them occasionally. 73% said Covid-19 had no impact on their sex life.
However, 42% of those under 25 and a third of 25-35 year olds said it had a negative impact. 46% of people said they smoked more during lockdown and half of respondents said their drinking habits changed.
The survey found that four out of every ten began to exercise more.
Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway, joint research lead said,
“Reading through over 800 comments left by respondents, it becomes clear that working parents feel under extreme pressure juggling working from home while looking after their children and keeping up with schooling.
Similarly, mental health problems, in particular social anxiety, are felt by many respondents, and there are little supports available to help this group.
Another interesting finding was that 20% of respondents indicated that last winter they suffered flu-like symptoms that would now be considered Covid-19.”
Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said,
“There’s still anxiety about moving out of lockdown, but people feel the government is getting the balance right. The level of social anxiety expressed is of concern, and suggests the mental and physical health effects of this pandemic may need equal attention.
The pent-up health service demand will be very challenging for us to meet.”
The number of people who have postponed medical treatment or check-ups remained the same as previous waves at about 31%.
52% said it is mainly because the healthcare professional is not seeing any patients at the moment. 36% say they don’t want to create an extra burden and 24% are worried about the risk of catching Covid-19.
Postponed treatments are mainly GP appointments (36%); dental treatment (42%) and routine check-ups (40%) but respondents also indicated postponing surgery and psychological consultations.
About 58% (1488) of respondents indicated to be more or even much more anxious while 10% indicated to be less anxious.
The anxiety is mainly due to the worry of catching the virus (70%); 35% also indicated worry about other health problems; 34% about the relaxation of restrictions; 25% about their finances or their business.
Relatively more people worry about working from home (31%) and 29% about their child’s schooling.
Tensions in the household have remained more or less the same as previous waves. Much more tension compared to usual is recorded in about 8-10% of the households and a little more in a quarter of the households.
Employment/Working from home
Most people were employed (69%) while, similar to other surveys, students made up 4%, and homemakers 8% but a higher percentage were retired respondents (12%).
Of the people who were in employment (1923), 61% are currently working from home and 20% indicated to be an essential worker.
Of the people who were in employment and working from home (1180), 23% indicated they wanted to continue working from home, but most (60%) would like a combination of on-site and working from home.
About 15% are worried about being made redundant- younger age groups more so than older. School/Childcare 68% of respondents had children (1753).
Of that, 47% felt that their child/children suffered a bit and 33% felt their child suffered a lot due to the lack of social interaction. 68% (747) indicated they would send their child to school if schools were to reopen in the morning.
Of the parents who need childcare in September (602), 44% do not have any arrangement in place yet.
In relation to college, most respondents said they are still going ahead with this plan (71%), while 17% have not decided yet and 6% intend to defer due to uncertainty.
The number of people who report flu-like symptoms dropped to 2% (previously 2.5%, 3% and 6% in the first wave).
The main symptoms reported are shifting a little; tired/exhaustion 60% (previously 66%); sore throat 40% (previously 48%); dry/throaty cough 26% (previously 28% and in April 38%); runny nose 46% (previously 32% down from 37% in April) and/or muscle pain 27% (previously 32% down from 38% in April). If a Covid-19 vaccine were to become available, 59% (1543) say they will get it, 32% (842) maybe and 8% not.
This is similar to the people who say they will get a flu-vaccine this year (57%) even though only 35% said they got the flu-vaccine last year.
If antibody testing were available, 48% (1258) would do this immediately and 44% (1150) if medically indicated, while 7% (189) do not want an antibody test.
Sexual relationships have not been affected by Covid-19 for 73% of the respondents, but 10% indicated better and 18% worse relationships.
The negative impact on sexual relationships is particularly felt by younger age groups with the under 25 age group (42%) and 29% of 25-35 year olds.
Of respondents who smoke (12% of the total sample), 46% indicated they smoke more while 18% smoke less.
Drinking habits changed for 50% of people (2113) and 28% indicated to drink more while 22% drank less. Exercise has increased for 40% (1033); 24% (632) exercise less and 36% of respondents have put on weight, while 13% lost some.
Mean age was 47 and median age was 47, which is similar to the other surveys. About 23% of respondents were male and 77% female.
Age groups were well represented, with about 54% of the people between 35 and 54; 5% under the age of 25 and 10% were 65 or older.
Education remained high- 70% had a university degree, similar to the previous waves.
Dublin had the highest number of respondents with 28% (previous 43%, 41% and 38%) and Galway 28% (previously 16%, 14% and 12%; Cork 7% (previous 8%, 7% and 6%) and all other counties were represented at less than 5%. *Corona Citizens’ Science Study
The Corona Citizens’ Science Project has been approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland.
The link to the Corona Citizens’ Science Project and the previous results is available at nuigalway.ie/corona-study
The Corona Citizens’ Science Project launched on Wednesday, April 8th and was open for 24 hours.
It asked questions about the impact of the measures imposed by the government starting from the ‘Containment Phase’ (February 29th); the “Delay Phase” following the March 12th announcement regarding the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities and the restrictions imposed on March 27th requesting people to stay at home until April 12th, and including for at risk groups, and over 70s to “cocoon”.It was repeated on April 22nd, May 6th and June 17th.