Amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many people have experienced negative impacts, such as job losses, business closures, months of lockdown measures, and health complications.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to spread worldwide. To date, there are more than 72.27 million cases and over 1.61 have lost their lives.
Researchers at the University of Sydney wanted to determine what Australians think are the positive effects brought on by the pandemic.
The team found that many Australians reported a range of positive upsides to the pandemic’s onset, including increased family time, work flexibility, and a calmer pace of life.
The coronavirus pandemic
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak first started in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. From there, it began to spread in many parts of Asia and Europe. By March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the health crisis as a pandemic.
To date, it has spread to 191 countries and regions worldwide. The United States reports a higher number of cases, reaching 16.25 million, with nearly 300,000 deaths.
The situation is different in Australia. The country has reported more than 28,000 cases and 908 deaths.
Positive effects of COVID-19
In the study published on the pre-print server medRxiv*, the researchers aimed to determine whether Australians have experienced any positive effects during the pandemic, despite the disruption to society and daily life.
To arrive at the study’s findings, the researchers conducted a national online survey in June 2020, where they asked around 1,370 participants about the pandemic's positive effects.
The team has found that of the participants, 70% said they had experienced at least one positive during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 54.2% of the participants reported a sufficient level of well-being, while 23.2% showed low well-being. About 22.6% said they had very low well-being during the pandemic.
A large proportion of the study participants noted positive effects of COVID-19. They included having the opportunity to spend more time with family, work from home, or have more flexibility in their working groups.
On the other hand, those who were unemployed during the survey or those who worked outside the home were less likely to experience positives effects. Those who lived alone did not report any positive effects of the pandemic.
Although we acknowledge that many people may have been separated from their families during this time, this sample reported that the lockdown period provided many families a chance to be together and prioritize those relationships," the researchers explained… This finding is in keeping with previous research into crises demonstrating that family and community connection can attenuate the detrimental impacts of disaster and promote resilience amongst community members."
Another positive effect included in the study is enjoying a quieter and less busy life. When countries imposed lockdown measures in many countries, people stay at home, which enforced a "downtime" for many people who did not have to leave home to work. They had less commute time and more time at home.
"Although a large proportion of participants in this survey found positives, it is crucial to acknowledge that it is possible to acknowledge positives in a crisis but not necessarily find the overall experience a positive one," the researchers said.
They added that many of those who reported positive effects of the pandemic might not have the same outlook as soon as restrictions were lifted. They needed to go back to work or become busy in other areas of their lives again.
The study provided a better understanding of how people identified positive experiences despite the ongoing pandemic. However, the study also recommends providing extra support to groups that could not access the benefits of daily life changes.
"This might include flexible working and a greater emphasis on local community engagement to promote social connections," the researchers said.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.
- Cornell, S., Nickel, B., Cvejic, E., Bonner, C., McCaffery, K. et al. (2020). What positives can be taken from the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia?. medRxiv. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.10.20247346, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.10.20247346v1