Coronavirus: Most Kiwis 'satisfied with life' during COVID-19 lockdown, Ministry of Health survey reveals

The new survey shows Kiwis have been relatively happy during the lockdown period.
The new survey shows Kiwis have been relatively happy during the lockdown period. Photo credit: Getty

The majority of Kiwis have been happy during lockdown and could afford basic living costs, a new Ministry of Health (MoH) survey has revealed.

The government agency has interviewed about 300 people a day since New Zealand first went into level 4 at the end of March, to gain a better understanding of Kiwis' needs during a pandemic.

The results, which were released on Thursday, show insight into New Zealanders' wellbeing, their response to the rules and financial stability.

Of the respondents, 31 percent felt lonely or isolated to some extent over the last week, but three-quarters said they were satisfied with life. 

Over half of those surveyed also said their wellbeing at the current alert level was the same as usual and, after the first week, over 90 percent said they see themselves in good health.

Many Kiwis had initial worries about the pandemic, but this gradually decreased in the seven weeks since the survey began. Over this period, the country recorded fewer cases each day and the alert level decreased.

Each week, less than 7 percent of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed they were struggling to pay for basic living costs, and a third said they had applied for Government support.

Deputy Director-General of Mental Health and Addictions Robyn Shearer says the pandemic has been hard on Kiwis.

"We know COVID-19 may have significant, long term effects on people's mental wellbeing. It’s important to track how people are doing so we can target support where it’s most needed," she said.

"We are aware there is a lot of different research being conducted at the moment, and each will use different methodologies and sample groups - which means they are likely to come up with differing results.

"All of this information provides us with a useful indication of what is going on."

Mental Health and Addiction Chief Clinical Advisor Dr Arran Culver says despite the mostly positive results in the survey, a lot of Kiwis are struggling.

"The impacts of COVID-19 may be felt for some time, and some of them may be out of our control - but that doesn't mean mental distress is inevitable," he said.

"Just like physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing is something that we can strengthen with practice. The stronger our mental wellbeing is, the better we’ll be able to cope with uncertainty and stress."

Shearer added that New Zealand can avoid a spike in mental distress in months to come by "practising good mental wellbeing techniques and accessing support when we need it".

The MoH says they plan to use the data - along with other sources of information, such as call volumes to helplines, feedback from services and specialist mental health and addiction service data - to provide a better picture on how people are doing.

Other research is suggesting Kiwis have been more anxious during the pandemic.

Health experts have said they expect to see a surge in mental health issues, for which GPs need to be prepared.

"We are seeing a huge amount of suppressed mental health issues at the moment - even those that we are consulting on other issues," GP Dr Kate Baddock told the Epidemic Response Committee on April 24.

An online survey by the mental health organisation Out of the Fog also showed 80 percent of all Kiwis felt anxious and stressed while locked down in their bubbles.

Out of the Fog director Kristina Patterson says she's concerned the crisis could have even more dire consequences.

"Our suicide rate has been increasing every year for a very long time, and it is heartbreaking - I'm really concerned that we are going to see that rate climb into numbers that we've never seen before."

Job uncertainty, financial issues, loneliness and more were expected to contribute to the poor outlook.

The MoH says the sample size for the combined first seven weeks is 14,052. All survey respondents were over 14 years-old and the interviews took 10 to 15 minutes.