Loneliness and psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic in rural communities

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract

Background: COVID-19 is having a profound effect on daily lives of people across the world. While Australia’s proactive preventive measures and public health strategies have controlled the spread of virus, the psychological impact of COVID-19 on population may not be negated, especially for rural and remote communities.

Methods: We used data that were collected via an online COVID-19 Living Survey conducted by BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash Sustainable Development Institute between 13 and 20 May 2020. The survey aimed to collect individual experiences with COVID-19 to inform actions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey measured behaviour, behavioural drivers, COVID-19 attitudes and beliefs, and demographic variables and data were anonymised at the time of collection. At the time of data extraction (1 June 2020), records from 1593 adult individuals were obtained.

Results: The self-reported mean feeling of happiness and anxiousness likert scale of 0–10 (with 0 being least happy or the highest level of anxiety) was 6.5 (SD=2.4) and 3.9 (SD=2.9) respectively. Factors associated with happiness were increasing age – those aged 60 and above reported higher levels of happiness than those aged 18–29 during the COVID-19 pandemic; and having a postgraduate education compared to high school education. Consistently, feeling anxious was associated with younger age. Loneliness was an independent predicator of reduced happiness and higher anxiousness, independent of age, gender, education and geographical location. Interestingly, the effect of loneliness was greater in regional and remote regions compared to capital or major cities.

Conclusion: The negative impact of COVID-19 on rural youth and those less educated is evident, with reduced happiness and increased anxiousness. Loneliness in rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic may adversely affect wellbeing of rural populations. Preventions and supportive programs should focus on these cohorts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Event8th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium -
Duration: 6 Oct 20217 Oct 2021

Conference

Conference8th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium
Period6/10/217/10/21

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • psychological impact
  • anxiety
  • wellbeing

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