Mental health, housing, recession and green spaces among Irish public’s covid concerns
As part of DHR Communications’ ongoing work with Amárach Research, looking at behaviours and attitudes during the pandemic, we asked survey respondents about the impacts of the pandemic that have caused people concern.
Among Irish adults, mental health is the number one concern stemming from the pandemic and its wider impacts. More than three in four (77 per cent) people cited mental health when asked by Amárach Research and DHR Communications last month.
Emotions like worry, anxiety, stress, fear, frustration and loneliness have been among those acutely felt across society for more than a year, and have been tracked by the Amárach Research Public Opinion Survey for the Department of Health since March 2020. These have followed an expected trajectory over the last 14 months. They peaked in tandem with surges in cases in March and October 2020, and again in January 2021. The pandemic has undoubtedly caused more people to be aware of their mental health, forcing them to reckon with it in a way they may not have done previously.
As we progress through the late-stage of the pandemic, worry at the prospect of a recession looms large among respondents. , More than half (56 per cent) cited it as a concern. Published at the end of March, the ESRI’s latest economic forecast covering 2021-22, revises its forecast downwards. However increased impetus in the vaccine roll-out and a reopening of the economy may support a more optimistic forecast.
It remains to be seen how the jobs market will recover from the extended closure of businesses. More than half (52 per cent) of Irish adults cite unemployment as a concern. The most recent CSO figures show a Covid-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment that puts the unemployment rate at 22.4 per cent. This rate classifies all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment as unemployed. Among those 15 to 24 years old, this rises to 61.8 per cent. For young people working part-time or full-time in hospitality their ability to support themselves will depend greatly on how the sector emerges post-lockdown. As society re-opens, eyes will be on the recovery of these figures.
More than half (51 per cent) of Irish adults are also concerned about children’s education loss. This stems from the swift migration of in-person lessons to online formats. Recently, The Irish Times reported on the some 4,500 children who did not return to school following re-opening. For many parents, despite the re-opening of schools, Covid-19 is still taking a toll on their children’s education and development.
Much has been made of the likelihood of future pandemics, given the unprecedented scale and impact of the Covid-19 crisis and the extent to which it took the world by surprise. This is on the public’s mind, with 45 per cent of Irish adults concerned about another pandemic. Some media commentators, and academic articles and working papers have explored how ever-deepening globalisation through trade and the movement of people, may create conditions that raise the threat of more internationally mobile infectious diseases.
The perennial issue of housing – the ability to buy or rent – features among the concerns of Irish adults, with almost one third (32 per cent) citing it. Some political and media commentators considered last week’s news of real estate investment trusts in Ireland buying up property as the first news item to cut through reporting on the pandemic in a sustained and acute manner, putting the issue back on the agenda.
Climate change is a concern among 29 per cent of Irish adults. The experience of the pandemic and lockdown has presented many people with an opportunity to interrogate their consumption habits and environment behaviours in the home, and the climate impact these can have. Time spent outdoors and within one’s five-kilometre radius has highlighted the importance of protecting the natural environment of one’s locality for the sake of individual and collective health and wellbeing, and sustainability.
Finally, almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Irish adults are concerned by the amount and quality of green spaces. Again, the experience of lockdown and travel restrictions may have heightened awareness of the need for available and accessible parks and green spaces.