The second ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey has found that the number of adults reporting feelings of nervousness or restlessness has doubled, compared to this time last year.
The survey compared the latest figures against the 2017-18 National Health Survey. Michelle Marquardt, ABS’s Program Manager for Household Surveys, said in a statement, “Adults aged 18 to 64 years were nearly twice as likely as those aged 65 years and over to experience feelings related to anxiety at least some of the time.”
In 2014, the General Social Survey found that 76 per cent of Australians were seeing friends and family outside the home, compared to the latest results; 48 per cent, due to the legislated restrictions on public movement.
The report also found that we were finding positive alternatives to stay connected throughout the first few weeks of April.
“Two thirds of Australians (65 per cent) increased their frequency of non face-to-face contact with family and friends outside of their household,” Marquardt said. “Most commonly via audio-only calls (92 per cent), text and instant messaging (86 per cent), and video calls (67 per cent).”
The ABS have scheduled to release a series of additional information over the coming months about the impacts of COVID-19 on Australian households.
Last month, Monash University in Melbourne created an online survey to measure the ways in which COVID-19 has affected people, and results have already shown a rise in anxiety and depression.
Dr Caroline Gurvich, a Senior research fellow and clinical neuropsychologist at Monash told the ABC, “In normal times the majority of people fall in the normal range, so we are seeing elevated levels of depression and anxiety.”
Dr Gurvich suggests a potential rise in other mental health issues as the study progresses, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It is very much a first preliminary glimpse of the general population, we are only in the first few weeks of this and seeing the impacts on mental health,” Dr Gurvich said.
At another department, Monash University’s Global and Women’s Health, a team lead by Professor Jane Fisher and Dr Maggie Kirkman have been tracking the mental health effects of the coronavirus crisis.
The survey, titled “How are you? Living with COVID-19 restrictions in Australia” asks questions about Australians’ living circumstances, mental health, access to healthcare, alcohol consumption and fear of COVID-19 among other things.
Professor Fisher is the Director of the Global and Women’s Health department and a mental health expert. Dr Kirkman is a Senior Research Fellow at Global and Women’s Health, Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.
Professor Fisher believes tracking these results is critical to exposing the many forms of “disenfranchised grief” that Australians may be prone to suffering during the pandemic.
“We know that Australia has never experienced anything on the scale of COVID-19, and understand that the temporary restrictions are likely to affect everyone’s sense of wellbeing,” she said. “With so much loss going on, it can be hard to see the positives in such a situation, aside from the obvious public good of protecting communities from the ravages of COVID-19.”