To say that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the world would be an understatement. In less than a year since the virus emerged — and just over 6 months since tracking began in the United States — it’s upended day-to-day lives across the globe.
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But a new survey, commissioned by Parade magazine and Cleveland Clinic, reveals the pandemic has also changed how Americans approach their health and health care in ways both positive and negative.
Conducted by Ipsos, the survey was given to a nationally representative sample of 1000 American adults 18 years of age & older, living in the U.S.
Here’s what the survey found.
Mental health challenges
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has triggered a wave of mental health issues. Whether it’s managing addiction, depression, social isolation or just the general stress that’s resulted from COVID-19, we’re all feeling it.
It seems to especially be hitting younger people. Of those surveyed, 55% reported experiencing mental health issues since the onset of the pandemic, including 74% of respondents in the 18-to-34-year-old age range.
Of those respondents, four of the most common issues were:
- Stress (33% overall; 42% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Anxiety (30% overall; 40% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Depression (24% overall; 31% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Loneliness or isolation (24% overall; 31% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
Many are also feeling overwhelmed by the constant, sometimes shifting and conflicting flow of information around the virus and the pandemic. Overall, 41% of those surveyed claimed that they were so overwhelmed by COVID-19 news and information that they weren’t paying attention.
While much of the world has come to a stop at times during the pandemic, the need for health care has not. Yet, 38% of respondents said they skipped or delayed preventive health care visits because of the pandemic even though health care providers have gone to great lengths to ensure that keeping those appointments are safe for everyone.
Women are more likely to skip these appointments than men, 46% to 29%, and as many as 15% of total respondents avoided visits for more serious issues like injury or even chest pain.
“In a time when we need to be able to focus on keeping ourselves as healthy as we can, we must not skip preventive visits to our healthcare providers. When we miss early signs of disease, we allow it to grow into a serious or even life-threatening illness,” says infectious disease expert Kristin Englund, MD.
“Our clinics and hospitals are taking every precaution available to assure patients are safe from COVID-19 within our walls. We cannot let fear of one disease keep us from doing what we need to do to stay healthy,” she continues.
This is especially true for children who need to continue their routine immunizations. As pediatrician Skyler Kalady, MD, points out, “We can’t lose sight of other diseases that children will be at high risk for contracting, like measles and pertussis (whooping cough), without those regular vaccinations.”
Staying healthy during the pandemic
But there is good news as far as respondents’ health is concerned. From lifestyle changes to better eating habits, people are using this time to get healthier in many areas.
Since the pandemic started, nearly two-thirds of the survey’s participants (62%) say they’ve made a significant lifestyle change, including:
- More time outdoors or experiencing nature.
- Improved sleep patterns.
- Starting or modifying an exercise program.
- Other healthy dietary changes.
Eating and exercise are new areas of focus for many respondents. One-third of the participants (34%) say they’re eating more healthy food and most (a whopping 87%) say they’ll keep the habit up.
Meanwhile over a quarter of respondents (28%) say they’ve increased their exercise frequency during the pandemic, perhaps a sign that more people are embracing the advantages of working out at home while gyms remain a risky venture.
Better health awareness
There’s more to healthy living than just exercising and food, though. And 68% of respondents said that the pandemic has them paying more attention to certain risk factors for other health issues. That number is even higher (77%) for those younger respondents, 18-to-34 years old. Some of those risk factors include:
- Stress, anxiety, depression and mental health (37%).
- Risk factors for chronic diseases, autoimmune or other chronic diseases (36%).
- Weight (32%).
- Physical fitness (28%).
- Lung health (15%).
Additionally, the pandemic is motivating people to take better care of more serious issues with 41% of respondents who already have a chronic condition saying they’ll now be even more likely to comply with treatment.
Family and the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen both benefits and drawbacks of being cooped up with family for long periods of time. And there’s certainly been added stress for families who have had to deal with remote learning situations for school-aged children.
Some, though, reported positive experiences with their families in such close quarters. Overall, 34% of those who responded said that they feel closer to their family and, in households with kids, 52% reported feeling like they’ve forged new connections. Additionally, 78% agreed that quarantine made them value their relationships.
As for that stress with kids, 27% of those surveyed who have kids in their households say their children have benefited from being able to spend more time with family.
As flu season looms and the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, it’s especially important that everyone get a flu shot this year. According to the survey, 26% of respondents said they’re now more likely to get a flu shot. And among adults 18-to-34-years old, 35% are more likely to get vaccinated against the flu.
As for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, 60% of respondents said that yes, they absolutely would get that vaccine when available. Of those who answered no or that they weren’t sure if they’d get the COVID-19 vaccine, the top reasons given were concerns about potential side effects (61%) and concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine (53%).
In the short term, those who took the survey show a dedication to being safe and following guidelines for the foreseeable future. And that’s where their concerns remain, too.
Of those surveyed, 78% say they won’t spend the holidays as they normally do with only 9% planning to attend holiday church services and only 12% planning to attend holiday parades or New Year’s Eve firework celebrations.
Respondents are also putting common personal interactions on hold with 78% saying they won’t shake hands with people through the end of the year and only 13% saying they will hug a non-family member.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that a resurgence of COVID-19 is a big concern among those surveyed. Over half (59%) said they were concerned about another surge of cases while 44% said they’re worried about another round of quarantine.
It’s also not a surprise to see that two-thirds (68%) of respondents aged 55 years or older, the group with the highest risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, are concerned about another surge of cases.
Despite these concerns and the difficulties faced throughout the pandemic, those who responded to the survey also showed that they’ve managed to find positives in their experiences.
Overall, 78% of those surveyed said that while quarantine and social distancing was difficult, it’s made them value their relationships. Meanwhile, 65% said the pandemic has made them reevaluate how they spend their time and 58% said it’s made them reevaluate their life goals.
And while 58% say that the pandemic has changed their way of life forever, nearly three-quarters (72%) said that they still have hope for the future.