After nearly three weeks of locked out life, an investigation suggests that a significant minority of people in the United Kingdom are struggling to cope.
Research, conducted by King’s College London and pollsters Ipsos Mori, reveals that 15% of the population already say they find the restrictions very difficult and 14% expect they will not be able to cope in next month.
However, nine out of 10 people support the lockdown and have attempted to follow government guidelines on social distancing and hand washing.
The survey of 2,250 adults was carried out a week ago and reveals the difficulties and suffering already experienced by some households.
Half of the respondents (49%) reported feeling more anxious and depressed than normal. More than a third (38%) said they had trouble sleeping and more than a fifth (22%) said they were already facing serious money problems or were almost certain to do so in the near future.
Among workers, 16% said they had already lost their jobs or were very likely to do so in the near future.
Young people seem to have a harder time coping with restrictions than older people. Among young people aged 16 to 24, a quarter (24%) said it was extremely difficult for them to cope with the lockout. Only 11% of 45 to 75 year olds reported having difficulty.
The investigation reveals the emotional challenges of being locked behind closed doors. A fifth of people (19%) said they argued more with people at home and a similar proportion said they drank more alcohol than usual. A third said they were eating more or less healthy food than before.
Whatever the challenges, the lockdown seems to have inspired a wave of community spirit. A majority of people (60%) said they had offered to help a neighbor and 47% had received help from the local community.
Britain seems poised for the restrictions to last for some time, with 41% of adults expecting the lockout to last at least six months. Half of the population (51%) thought it would take more than a year before life returned to normal.
However, the public appears to be in favor of restrictions to protect health services and prevent the spread of the virus. Only 5% said they were against the foreclosure, with two-thirds of the population (68%) strongly supporting the “stay at home” instruction.
A majority of people (60%) say they have “completely followed” government directives to leave the house as little as possible and 27% say they have complied most of the time. Only 1% admit to ignoring advice.
Messages about staying 2 m (6 feet) from people outside the home, avoiding places where people meet and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds appear to have been effective. Nine out of 10 people say they followed official guidelines.
The almost total support and compliance with the restrictions suggested in the investigation will be a relief to government ministers. In the hope that the foreclosure will continue for some time, it is important for public order that people generally believe that the actions are followed by others.
The key messages also appear to be understood by the public, even if the survey reveals that some misconceptions persist. One in seven (15%) think seasonal flu is more deadly than coronavirus and almost a third (31%) think “most people” in the UK have had the virus without knowing it realize.
A quarter (25%) thought that the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was “probably created in the laboratory” – one of the conspiracy theories currently circulating on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
Surveys like this also help the government identify areas where their message is not as clear as it should be. One finding that may worry government officials is that two in five (39%) think they should do their shopping “little and often to avoid long lines”, when the advice is only to go out and buy basic necessities and as rarely as possible.
Only 12% of people agreed that “too many stories” were made about Covid-19. During the swine flu epidemic in 2009, 55% of people thought the response to this virus was exaggerated.
The survey also asked people how the government had handled the crisis. While 58% of people thought the ministers had adapted well to the evolution of scientific and other information, 42% thought the answer was confused and inconsistent.