A social study of the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of Australians: Report 1

Covid-19 survey flyer image

NARI is conducting a longitudinal study examining the impacts of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of people residing in Australia during the pandemic.

This first report focuses on participants’ understanding and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It looks at their responses to it and how these varied according to sociodemographic factors.

The study ran from 27 May 2020 to 13 December 2020. This report describes cross-sectional data collected from the 803 participants who completed a baseline survey between 27 May 2020 and 19 August 2020.

'This study is crucial as there are limited longitudinal survey studies on the wellbeing effects of COVID-19 across time, including while restrictions are in place, while they are lifted partially or fully, and then in the recovery phases,' Dr Goh said.

Just over half (51%) of participants were aged 60 years and over. They were mostly female, highly educated, English-only speakers, non-Indigenous, and living in Victoria. Responses to the first survey indicated:

Self-rated knowledge about COVID-19 was high

Approximately 90% of participants reported good or very good knowledge about COVID-19, while less than 3% rated their knowledge as poor or very poor. Key workers and carers of older people rated their knowledge of COVID-19 significantly higher than non-carers or non-key workers.

Adherence to government recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was high across all groups

Those more adherent to recommendations included people:

  • aged 60 and above
  • staying home due to lockdown restrictions
  • with a disability
  • who identified as ‘high risk’
  • with high blood pressure
  • with chronic health conditions other than heart and lung disease or diabetes.

Confidence in the Australian Government’s handling of COVID-19 was high

Over 78% of participants reported having high levels of confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic, and only 10% rated their confidence low to very low. Participants with a pre-existing clinical diagnosis of anxiety or depression were significantly less confident, whereas participants with a diagnosis of high blood pressure were more confident in the government’s ability to manage the pandemic.

Confidence in the Australian healthcare system during COVID-19 was high

A large majority of participants (81.4%) had high levels of confidence in the Australian healthcare system. Groups reporting higher confidence in the healthcare system included people with a university education and people with cancer. Groups with lower confidence included teachers and childcare workers, those with clinically diagnosed depression or anxiety, and people living with lung disease.

Participants were highly confident that access to essentials (such as food, water, medicines) would be maintained.

A large majority (81%) of people reported having high to very high levels of confidence that access to essential items would be maintained, whereas only 7% rated their confidence low to very low. Groups with statistically lower confidence included:

  • teachers and childcare workers
  • those with clinical depression or anxiety
  • people who self-identified as high risk for COVID-19 infection
  • people living with disability and their carers.

Covid-19 Survey Report 1: How does public understanding and response to COVID-19 vary by socio-demographic
factors? An analysis of baseline surveys.