At the beginning of April, the Ministry of Health started issuing a daily survey to collect information about the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, how they are doing, and how they are being impacted by COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health is using this data along with other sources of information, such as call volumes to help lines, feedback from services and specialist mental health and addiction service data as ongoing monitoring of how people are doing.
In the most recent week of surveying, 99% of people told us they are getting along with other members of their household, 99% can support the wellbeing of their children and 95% are able to pay basic living costs. Most people report being happy with life as it is.
Thirty-one per cent of people experienced feelings of loneliness or isolation at times, and 8% reported depressive or anxiety related symptoms, however, it hasn’t been possible to estimate how much of this is due to the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions.
Robyn Shearer, Deputy Director-General, Mental Health and Addictions says: 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.
'We are aware that 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,' says Robyn Shearer.
'We recognise some people are struggling, and we know that the level of need varies in different communities. That’s why we are making support and tools available. The survey gives us important information on the trend over time- which is currently showing overall improvement,' says Mental Health and Addiction Chief Clinical Advisor, Dr Arran Culver.
'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. 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.'
Robyn Shearer says, 'If we all act now and pay attention to our mental wellbeing - practicing good mental wellbeing techniques and accessing support when we need it - we can avoid a spike in mental distress in months to come.'
COVID-19 Health and Wellbeing survey findings
The survey has been running for seven weeks and many of the results have been fairly consistent over that time.
People who undertook this survey responded to all questions that were relevant to them (ie, those who do not have children did not answer questions about their children). For full context it is important to look at the results in their entirety rather than focus on specific responses.
Key provisional results from week seven include:
- Ninety per cent of respondents say their general health is good, very good or excellent. This is similar to the most recently published results of the New Zealand Health survey; in 2018/19, 86 percent of respondents said their health was good, very good or excellent.
- Ninety-nine per cent can support the wellbeing of children under 15 years in their household (1 percent say they are finding this difficult)
- Ninety-five per cent are able to pay basic living costs (5 percent say they are struggling to do this)
- Ninety-nine per cent are getting along with other members of their household (1 percent say they are getting along badly or very badly)
- Seventy-five per cent of respondents say they are satisfied with life these days
- Thirty-one per cent reported feeling lonely or isolated at times in the week before they were surveyed
- Eight per cent reported depressive or anxiety related symptoms (down from 14 percent in week one) in the week before they were surveyed. (This may not represent an increase from usual levels of feelings of anxiety and depression amongst the general population.)
The survey began in early April and a decision on how long the survey will continue has not yet been made.
Baseline data is not available for most of the questions asked in the survey, so it is not possible to determine if the responses are due solely to the COVID-19 situation, or if they are normal for the responders.