More than one year into the coronavirus pandemic, the immense impact the crisis has had on public health and the economy is now apparent. What is less clear, however, is how individuals perceive the pandemic has affected their personal wellbeing as they have responded and adapted to unprecedented challenges. The crisis has undoubtedly had a profound––and likely negative––effect on individuals across Great Britain. Even so, the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that a large majority (72%) of the British public believes they have personally responded to the coronavirus crisis well.
Although the proportion of respondents who believe they have responded well to the crisis is considerable, it varies greatly depending on different factors, the most apparent of which are age and employment status. Respondents aged 18 to 24 years old (64%) and 25 to 34 years old (64%) are far less likely to say they have personally responded to the crisis well when compared to those aged 65 and over (84%).
Likewise, the proportion of British respondents who said that they have responded to the crisis well differs significantly among respondents who are retired (88%), employed and working (71%), employed but furloughed (61%), or unemployed and looking for work (57%). Another demographic who seems to think it had a slightly worse personal response to the pandemic is parents and guardians: a smaller proportion of parents and guardians of school-aged children said that they have responded well to the crisis (68%) than respondents who do not parent children (75%).
Responses to the pandemic have thus been far from uniform and instead may depend largely on individuals’ personal situations, with young adults, unemployed individuals, and parents of school-aged children appearing to have had relatively less positive responses to the crisis. This result is possibly a consequence of these groups’ less certain economic situations at this time, along with the challenges posed by school closures for parents. That being said, majorities of each group still believe that they have responded well to the pandemic.
One dimension of the coronavirus pandemic that the British public has had to contend with in their response to the crisis is the introduction of lockdowns, the latest of which started in early January 2021. A majority of respondents (56%) said that they have become used to the lockdown, though a considerable 44% said they have become fed up with the lockdown. This latest figure is similar to earlier this month but still different than what we found towards the end of February, when 62% described themselves as ‘used to’ the lockdown.
In particular, parents of school-aged children (51%) feel more fed up with the lockdown than non-parents (40%). Likewise, 18-to-24-year-olds (56%) said that they have become fed up with the lockdown substantially more than 65-year-olds and over (36%).
While much of the British public is indeed fed up with the current lockdown, a majority seems to perceive at least one positive outcome of the pandemic: 68% of respondents said that the way they have responded to the pandemic has left them feeling confident about their ability to respond to future crises. Conversely, 32% of respondents said that the way they have responded to the pandemic has left them feeling anxious about their ability to respond to future crises.
A sense of anxiety about their ability to handle future crises is particularly heightened among 18-to-24-year-olds (42%) and 25-to-34-year-olds (46%) when compared to those aged 65 and over (20%), again revealing the disproportionate impact the pandemic appears to have had on younger Britons’ mental wellbeing. The same is also the case for parents of school-aged children, who said they feel anxious about their ability to handle future crises (40%) more often than non-parents (28%).
While majorities of respondents said that they have responded to the crisis well, that they have become used to the lockdown, and that they now feel confident about their ability to respond to future crises, the pandemic has nonetheless had a significant impact on many Britons’ mental health. Despite feeling they have personally handled the crisis well, 60% of respondents said the lockdown has adversely impacted their mental health.
The sentiment that the lockdown has adversely impacted their mental health is held by a greater proportion of 18-to-24-year-olds (71%) and respondents who are furloughed (73%) or unemployed and looking for work (75%).
When asked specifically about the last three months, a plurality (45%) of respondents said their wellbeing and happiness have stayed the same over this time. A considerable 38% of respondents said their wellbeing and happiness have worsened in the last three months, though this figure represents a slight decrease from 15 February 2021 when 43% of respondents said their wellbeing and happiness had worsened in the three months preceding that poll.
Once again, the sense that their personal wellbeing and happiness have worsened in the previous three months is highest among 18-to-24-year-olds (54%) and among Britons who are unemployed and looking for work (49%) or who have been furloughed (56%).
Respondents were also asked how they expect their wellbeing and happiness will change in the next three months, which revealed a growing, but small, degree of optimism. A plurality (36%) of respondents expect their wellbeing and happiness to remain the same in the next three months, whereas 29% believe theirs will improve—a figure which has gradually increased from just 13% on 11 January 2021. The growing expectations of improved wellbeing and happiness are possibly a result of the successful vaccination rollout and the roadmap out of lockdown that the Government has since announced.
A plurality of 18-to-24-year-olds (31%) and 25-to-34-year-olds (32%) thinks their wellbeing and happiness will improve in the next three months, which shows a greater sense of hope for their personal futures among these hard-hit age groups.
Our research shows that it is not possible to speak of the coronavirus pandemic having had an overall effect on Britons, as the experience has differed substantially among members of the public. Still, significant proportions of all respondents indicated that they think they have responded to the crisis well and have grown used to the lockdown, and even believe the pandemic has better equipped them to deal with future crises that may occur. While these responses are encouraging, respondents nevertheless report a more adverse than positive impact on their mental health during the lockdown, the long-term effects of which could remain a problem even after the pandemic ends.