Since April, the ACT has had one of the biggest declines in life satisfaction of any Australian jurisdiction, according to Australian National University research published today.
Almost two-thirds of Australians believe that their life has gotten worse during this year’s pandemic, and more than half feel more negative about the future compared to 2020’s first wave of infections, according to a survey of more than 3,000 people – conducted while almost half of Australia, some 13 million people, were in lockdown.
“The dramatic changes in the past four months have led to declines in life satisfaction, worsening psychological distress, and an increase in loneliness across Australia,” said the study’s co-author, ANU Professor Nicholas Biddle.
Between April and August 2021, life satisfaction declined in all states and territories except Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. The biggest declines were in the lockdown states, particularly NSW (-0.56), Victoria (-0.43), and the ACT (-0.31).
Roughly half the people surveyed said they were more stressed, and more than a quarter said their relationships were more difficult or strained this year compared to 2020.
In short, Australians are suffering from lockdown blues, co-author Professor Matthew Gray believes.
“Australians are more likely to think that their life had gotten worse, were more likely to say that they felt more negative about the future than they were in May, were more stressed, and more likely to say that their relationship had got more difficult or strained.”
Worry and anxiety due to COVID-19 rose from 49.8 per cent in April – the lowest during the pandemic – to 60.9 per cent in August. For those who lived outside NSW, anxiety rose from 48.5 per cent in April to 56.0 per cent in August, and from 50.7 per cent to 67.9 per cent over the same period in NSW.
Australians’ fears about getting infected almost tripled – from 10.7 per cent in April to 30.8 per cent in August. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also significantly more worried about infection.
Australians are less satisfied with the direction of the country than at any time during the pandemic, and less confident in the federal, state, and territory governments.
“Australians think that given the successes of the country early in the pandemic, the situation should be far better than it currently is,” Professor Biddle said.
Confidence in state and territory governments declined nationally, from 67.2 per cent in April to 62.1 in August.
In April, 45.4 per cent said they had a great deal, or quite a lot of confidence in the Federal Government in Canberra; this dropped to 40.6 per cent by April. It is well below the peak in confidence during the pandemic of 60.6 per cent recorded in May 2020.
The data is taken from Australia’s only longitudinal survey with data from before the pandemic, and can be found here.