New research provides insights into the mental health of South Australians pre and post COVID-19
One year on from the COVID-affected April 2020 when our world turned upside down, research insights are being revealed about how South Australians coped with the lockdown.
Thanks to funding from The Hospital Research Foundation Group, a unique study is looking at the mental health of South Australians pre and post COVID-19.
The wellbeing of a cohort of 1300 people aged 37 to 98 from Adelaide’s north western suburbs is being analysed as part of the study, with the results compared to health markers that have been collected from the same group over the past 20 years.
How South Australians were impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020
Professor Bob Adams, Medical Director at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at Flinders University, said the early findings were showing interesting insights into loneliness, the loss of social structures and our coping mechanisms.
“This is a really unique study because we’ve been collecting data on this cohort for 20 years, so we know how people were feeling and what their health conditions were before things like COVID hit,” Prof Adams said.
“Loneliness got a lot of attention in the media, particularly for the elderly, but our early insights are showing that older people weren’t more lonely than our younger participants.
“The biggest differences we’re seeing is in behaviour changes during the lockdown, which actually affected the younger age brackets more. There is a group who really struggled with the lockdown – they were eating more, sleeping poorly, increasing their alcohol consumption.
“These pockets of the community were really affected by the loss of social structures. When you go into lockdown, businesses shut down, jobs lost or you work from home, you lose a lot of your supports and the things we put in our life to maintain a healthy day or maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“Having a work routine, for example, helps people make decisions about when they exercise, when they eat, when they sleep. So, when we take those routines and structures away, or when people were living in more challenging personal circumstances where maybe there’s violence or alcohol use, then you’re putting people at risk of more significant mental health outcomes.”
Prof Adams said the results were interesting, particularly considering South Australia’s lockdown was quite mild compared to the rest of the world.
“That cognitive load during the day in dealing with such an uncertain time, the unknowns that we were all experiencing at the start of the pandemic, had a really big impact.”
“Especially when you’re not in control of being able to see family, friends or understand what’s happening in different parts of the world. Many younger people were understandably fearful about the future and it will be interesting to see how this changes as the situation with the pandemic evolves.
“But on the flipside, we’re also getting a snapshot of some of the strategies that people used to cope. We are learning about some of the factors that helped people feel well and resilient – and that is crucial information for public health.
“With these insights, if we are faced with something like this again, we can push out this information to help us cope better.
“We greatly appreciated the support from The Hospital Research Foundation and your donors who are helping us investigate these issues. Without you, we cannot do what we do.”
We look forward to keeping you updated on the results of this study.