Man with depression sits in front of window

Social impacts of Covid-19 negatively affecting nation’s psyche

Image credit: Newscast/Time to Change

More than a third of adults do not believe life will return to normal within a year, due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey.

According to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 39 per cent of adults do not expect life to be back to normal for at least 12 months. This is more than double the number (18 per cent) answering the same question in December 2020.

Around 7 per cent expect life to return to normal in less than six months – significantly down from the 28 per cent of optimists last December.

Measures for life satisfaction – the feeling that things done in life are worthwhile – and happiness all fell, while anxiety increased somewhat.

The ONS analysed responses from 3,276 adults in Britain between 1 and 12 December as part of its 'Opinions and Lifestyle' survey on the social impacts of Covid-19.

During this period, the government announced its Plan B in response to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, reintroducing certain protective measures. These include making face coverings mandatory in most indoor public areas, such as shops and transport, asking people to work from home where possible, and extending the vaccine booster programme to younger adults.

Across the UK, certain venues and events are now legally required to check that visitors over the age of 18 have received vaccine doses or have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours.

The survey also asked about people’s plans for Christmas, with 63 per cent saying they were planning to visit family and friends in their homes over the festive period. Almost half (48 per cent) said they planned to host family or friends in their homes, while 34 per cent said they planned to meet with loved ones in restaurants, pubs, bars or cafes.

Some 80 per cent said they will stay at home if they feel unwell to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Since the survey period, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has urged people to consider cutting back socialising around Christmas due to the threat from the Omicron variant. He told the public earlier this week “don’t mix with people you don’t have to” at events and to avoid attending gatherings that are not important to them.

The ONS survey also found that there has been an increase in the number of people who said they wore a face covering outside their home in the past seven days. The proportion rose to 94 per cent, up from 84 per cent between 18 and 28 November.

Almost half (47 per cent) of adults said everyone or almost everyone was wearing a face covering while shopping (up from 19 per cent) and 45 per cent said the same for public transport (up from 21 per cent).

The proportion of people who reported self-isolating in the past week also rose slightly, from 4 per cent in the previous survey period to 5 per cent.

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