A new survey is confirming what we already know to be true: COVID is taking a toll on our households.
Conducted between October 2020 and February 2021 by a team of researchers from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Indiana University, survey questions focused on employment, business operations, household finances, labor productivity, child care and education, mental and physical health, and substance use.
Unsurprisingly, pandemic-related disruptions in school and child care; inequitable divisions of household labor; increases in depression, anxiety, and substance use; and economic concerns greatly impacted Vermonters in the last year, according to a just-released survey about the impacts of COVID-19 on American households.
According to the release associated with the announcement of the survey results, “Researchers asked respondents what policies or resources would be most helpful to manage the impacts of COVID-19. One-time stimulus payments and greater access to mental health services were the top recommendations cited overall by Vermonters. Vermont respondents were significantly more likely than national respondents to indicate the need for greater access to technological support.”
“The survey results reinforce what we know: The pandemic has exacerbated existing gender and economic inequality,” said Jessica Nordhaus, director of Change The Story VT — an initiative of the Vermont Commission on Women, Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women, who helped distribute the survey in Vermont. “Responding to these needs improves the lives, livelihood and well-being of women, their families and our economy.
According to the release:
— Overall, 79% of survey respondents with children attributed disruptions in school and child care to varying levels of productivity loss in their jobs, and 55% of respondents with kindergarten-age children reported their productivity being extremely affected by disruptions in child care.
— 20% of respondents stated they are financially dependent on their partner and 8% said they have relied on family or community members for financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— 52% of respondents stated that their income has remained roughly the same during the pandemic, while 34% saw decreases in overall income. Roughly 13% of respondents saw an increase in overall income.
— 40% of respondents saw household savings remain the same, while 31% of respondents reported reduced savings.
— 32% of respondents reported an increase in household spending to meet essential needs, while 25% of respondents reported a decrease, the remainder of respondents (42%) indicated no change in their household spending.
— 2% of business owners reported that their business had permanently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic (after March 2020).
— 37% of business owners reported that their businesses remained open but operated differently in the time period between March 2020 and their responses to the survey; 30% reported that their business was open and operations had not changed. An additional 15% reported that their business had closed temporarily after the COVID-19 crisis began, but it was open at the time of the survey.
According to the release, study findings also indicated high rates of mental health concerns caused by stress. One in four respondents reported experiencing an anxiety or panic attack in the last four weeks of completing the survey. One in three respondents reported moderate or severe anxiety and depression. The 18- to 24-year-old age group reported the highest levels of mental health challenges, with half reporting panic attacks and nearly 40% reporting moderate or severe anxiety and depression. Divorced respondents reported the highest levels of moderate or severe anxiety and depression, at 41%.
Researchers reported that 41% of Vermont respondents, compared to 38% of all survey respondents nationwide, had increased alcohol usage since the beginning of the pandemic, and 48% of Vermont respondents reported increased cannabis usage.
And, notably, 76.5% of respondents reported that they have canceled necessary health appointments. Of those who have canceled appointments, 62% cited concerns about attending in-person appointments during COVID-19, while 53% reported health care provider cancellations.
Overall, the data tells a story of stress and challenge for Vermonters. After the pandemic is over, it will be some time before we readjust, heal and find ourselves coping better.
For now, we need to continue to take care of ourselves, and seek out help and resources where we need them.
You can visit bit.ly/UMASScovidVT to see all of the survey results.