Big majority say Covid-19 Level 5 'appropriate', nearly half don't expect 'normality' for up to two years

Ireland's official stats body produces new survey on lockdown impact

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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Big majority say Covid-19 Level 5  'appropriate', nearly half don't expect 'normality' for up to two years

CSO compiles and publishes data on the Covid-19 outbreak

The majority of people believe the Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions have been 'appropriate' but women but nearly half those surveyed by the Central Statistics Office (CSO believe it could be up to two years before life can return to normal.

The Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey November 2020: Well-being and Lifestyle under Level 5 Restrictions used an online questionnaire to get the views 1,585 individuals.

The topics covered in this publication include well-being, changes in consumption, compliance with official COVID-19 advice and positive impacts on life since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

It found that more than 71% of respondents believed the Level 5 response was ‘Appropriate’, 18.3% felt it was ‘too extreme’ while 10.2% believed it was ‘not sufficient’.

The CSO analysis by age shows that the likelihood of a respondent feeling that the Level 5 response was ‘appropriate’ increased with age, with 63.2% of respondents aged 18-34 agreeing that the Level 5 response was ‘Appropriate’ rising to 88.2% for those aged 70 years and over. Conversely, the likelihood of a respondent feeling that the Level 5 response was ‘too extreme’ decreased with age, falling from 23.1% for those aged 18-34 to 5.2% for those aged 70 years and over  See Concerns and Compliance.

In November 2020, more than one in three (35.6%) respondents rated their overall life satisfaction as ‘low’.  This compares with 29.6% in April 2020 and 8.7% in 2018. Respondents aged 18-34 reported the lowest levels of overall life satisfaction with 42.1% having a ‘Low’ overall life satisfaction rating.

The percentage of respondents that felt downhearted or depressed ‘all’ or ‘most of the time’ in the four-week period prior to interview doubled between April and November 2020, from 5.5% to 11.5%. Women were twice as likely to report they felt downhearted or depressed ‘all or ‘most of the time’ (15.5% compared with 7.3% of men). Analysis by age shows that respondents aged 18 to 34 were most likely to report being downhearted or depressed ‘all’ or ‘most of the time’ (18.6%) increasing from 11.1% in April 2020. Those aged 55-69 and 70 years and over were least likely to report being downhearted and depressed ‘all’ or ‘most of the time’ (6.0 and 6.1% respectively).

The percentage of respondents that felt lonely ‘All’ or ‘Most of the time’ in the four-week period prior to interview doubled between April and November 2020, from 6.8% to 13.7%. More than 17% of female respondents felt lonely ‘All’ or ‘Most of the time’ compared with 9.9% of male respondents. Younger respondents, i.e. those aged 18-34, were most likely to feel lonely ‘All’ or ‘Most of the time’ with more than one in four (25.6%) feeling this way.

Just less than 7% of respondents believe that, within the next six months, their lives will return to something like it was before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly a third (32.5%) believe it will be between six and 12 months, 45.3% believe it will be between one and two years and 11.2% believe it will be two years or more before this happens. Just over 4% believe their lives will never return to normal. See Well-being.

Nearly 45% of respondents reported that something in their lives has changed for the better since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis with more than one in two (51.0%) women and almost four in ten (38.4%) men reporting this.  As age increased, the percentage reporting a positive change decreased, declining from 58.3% for those aged 18-34 to 15.9% for those aged 70 years and over.

Almost three in ten (28.7%) respondents reported more quality time with the people they live with as an aspect of their lives that has changed for the better. Almost two in ten (18.8%) reported ‘Improved finances‘ and 14.5% reported having ‘More free time‘ for hobbies as aspects of their lives that have changed for the better.

Similar percentages of workers reported a ‘Better work-life balance‘, and ’Less time commuting or travelling for work’, as aspects of their lives that have improved since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis (18.8% and 19.4%) respectively. See Lifestyle.

More than two in ten (21.1%) respondents who consume alcohol reported an increase in their alcohol consumption when compared with their consumption before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.  More than one in four (26.8%) reported a decrease and more than half (52.2%) reported ‘No change’.  In November 27.4% of respondents who use tobacco products said their consumption has ‘Increased’ since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, 17.4% said their consumption ‘Decreased’ and 55.1% reported ‘No change’.

More than four in ten (41.3%) respondents said that their consumption of junk food and sweets has ‘Increased’ since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. See Lifestyle.

In November 2020, when the country was living under Level 5 restrictions, almost two-thirds (65.2%) of respondents rated their compliance with current government advice and guidelines as ‘High’, compared with three-quarters (75.4%) in August. The rate for ‘High’ compliance was lowest in June (59.9%) when the country was just about to enter Phase 3 of the Roadmap for reopening society and highest in April (80.6%) approximately a month after initial COVID-19 restrictions were implemented.

In November, more than 68.2% of female respondents rated their compliance as ‘High’ compared with 62.2% of male respondents.

Three in five (60.0%) respondents in November said they were ‘Very’ or ‘Extremely concerned’ about other people’s ability to comply with government advice and guidelines compared with 47.7% in June.

Of those working from home, 27.3% said they were finding it ‘More difficult’, 37.0% said it was getting ‘Easier’ while 35.8% said there was ‘No difference’ as time passes. In November one in six (16.4%) respondents working from home because of restrictions reported they would prefer to return to their place of work compared to more than one in three (38.8%) respondents working from home due to restrictions in April. Less than one in four (22.6%) respondents said they would prefer to 'Remain working from home' exclusively, up from 6.8% in April. Six in ten (61.0%) respondents preferred a ‘Mixture of both’ in November, an increase on the April rate of 54.4%.

Overall, respondents believed they were less likely to contract COVID-19 in November than in April. In November 84.0% of respondents believed they had a ‘low’ chance of getting infected with COVID-19 and 16.0% believed that they had a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ chance. The comparable rates in April were 76.3% and 23.7%.’ MORE BELOW GRAPHIC

As to the future respondents were asked how long they think it will be before their lives return to something similar to what it was pre-COVID-19.

The most common (45.3%) response for when normality will return was between 1 and 2 years, followed by nearly a third (32.5%) believing that it will be in 6-12 months.  One in nine (11.2%) think pre-COVID-19 life will return in 2 years or more, 6.7% in less than 6 months, while 4.3% believe that it will never return to normal.

Male respondents expect that their lives will return to something approaching normality sooner than female respondents, with 43.2% of males expecting this within a year compared with 35.3% of female respondents.  Analysis by age group shows that a lower proportion of those in the 18-34 age category expect their lives to return to normal within a year. Just over three in ten (31.3%) of respondents in this age group expect this compared with over four in ten (40.9%) of those aged 70 and over. Nearly half (47.2%) of respondents aged 55-69 thought normality will return within a year.

One in seven (14.0%) respondents that rated their health status as being fair/bad/very bad felt that their lives will never return to normal.  This compares with 0.5% of respondents that rated their health status as being very good and 1.7% of those that rated it as good.

The CSO says these surveys give us a picture of the economic and social situation of the citizens of Ireland, with a level of accuracy no one else can gain.

KEY FINDINGS

- In November 2020, more than one in three (35.6%) survey respondents rated their overall life satisfaction as ‘Low’. This compares with 29.6% in April 2020 and 8.7% in 2018
- The percentage of respondents that felt downhearted or depressed ‘All’ or ‘Most of the time’ in the four-week period prior to interview doubled between April and November 2020, from 5.5% to 11.5%
- Almost two-thirds (65.2%) of respondents rated their compliance with government advice and guidelines as ‘High’, compared with four in five (80.6%) who rated their compliance as ‘High’ in April 2020
- Just over 39% of respondents believe that, within the next 12 months, their lives will return to something like it was before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis while 45.3% believe it will be between one and two years
- Almost three in ten (28.7%) said spending ‘More quality time with the people they live with’ is an aspect of their lives that has changed for the better since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis
- Of those working from home, 27.3% said they were finding it ‘More difficult’, 37.0% said it was getting ‘Easier’ while 35.6% said there was ‘No difference’ as time passes

Full report here