Almost a fifth of people under the age of 25 say they are feeling anxious as Ireland emerges from the lockdown, while older people are most concerned about contracting the virus, a survey has found.
The nationwide survey found that half of respondents said they feel the government is balancing the easing of restrictions with that of social and economic wellbeing.
The Corona Citizens’ Science Study, carried out by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University (DCU) and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics, looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the lockdown and social distancing on daily life.
Of the 2,500 respondents, 52% of people said they are wearing face masks while 73% said they would wear a face mask if it meant reducing the distance from 2m to 1m.
Half of all respondents said they adhered to all the restrictions that were in place while 44% said they broke some of them occasionally.
Some 46% of people said they smoked more during lockdown and half of respondents said their drinking habits changed. The survey found that four out of every 10 began to exercise more.
Dr Akke Vellinga, epidemiologist and senior lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “Reading through over 800 comments left by respondents, it becomes clear that working parents feel under extreme pressure juggling working from home while looking after their children and keeping up with schooling.
“Similarly, mental health problems, in particular social anxiety, are felt by many respondents, and there are little supports available to help this group.
“Another interesting finding was that 20% of respondents indicated that last winter they suffered flu-like symptoms that would now be considered Covid-19.”
The level of social anxiety expressed is of concern, and suggests the mental and physical health effects of this pandemic may need equal attention
Professor Anthony Staines, professor of health systems at DCU, said: “There is still anxiety about moving out of lockdown.”
He added: “The level of social anxiety expressed is of concern, and suggests the mental and physical health effects of this pandemic may need equal attention.
“The pent-up health service demand will be very challenging for us to meet.”
The number of people who postponed medical treatment or check-ups remained the same as previous waves at about 31%.
Some 52% said it is mainly because the healthcare professional is not seeing any patients at the moment while 36% say they do not want to create an extra burden and 24% are worried about the risk of catching Covid-19.
Postponed treatments are mainly GP appointments (36%); dental treatment (42%) and routine check-ups (40%) but respondents also indicated postponing surgery and psychological consultations.
About 58% (1,488) of respondents indicated to be more or even much more anxious while 10% indicated they were less anxious.
The anxiety is mainly due to the worry of catching the virus (70%). Some 35% also indicated worry about other health problems; 34% about the relaxation of restrictions and 25% about their finances or their business.
If a Covid-19 vaccine was to become available, 59% (1,543) said they will get it, while 32% (842) said maybe and 8% that they would not. This is similar to the people who said they will get a flu vaccine this year (57%) even though only 35% said they got the flu vaccine last year.
If antibody testing was available, 48% would do this immediately and 44% if medically indicated, while 7% do not want an antibody test.
The survey found that sexual relationships have not been affected by Covid-19 for 73% of respondents, but 10% indicated they were better and 18% worse. The negative impact on sexual relationships was particularly felt by younger age groups.