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SUSTAINABILITY | 04.12.2020

Emotional health hit the hardest by the pandemic

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The report “Spanish people’s health during the COVID-19 crisis” reflects how the pandemic and the new normal have negatively impacted emotional health.

The first case of coronavirus in Europe was detected at the end of January. Since then, between the disbelief felt by some, the denial of others and those who follow preventive measures, the coronavirus has roamed free, turning Europe into one of the epicenters of the pandemic.

The report titled “Spanish people’s health during the COVID-19 crisis,” recently published by Fundación MAPFRE and Salvetti Llombart, aims to make people aware of the impact the pandemic is having on Spanish people’s health and ascertain what concerns them most in their lives in the wake of the health crisis.

If Spanish people could give their physical health status a score, it would be a B-. Half say they feel “normal,” 42 percent “very good,” and only 8 percent say “very bad.” Meanwhile, around 60 percent believe that their physical health “is the same as before the pandemic,” 19 percent say it “has improved” and 22 percent say it “has gotten worse” — mainly young people between the ages of 20 and 26. Those who say their health has gotten worse point out that the main reasons for this are: putting on weight (54 percent), doing less sport (53 percent), feeling more tired (51 percent) and having less energy (49 percent) and more headaches (42 percent).

Emotional health has been hit hardest by the pandemic, especially for those aged 20 to 35. The responses indicate that 4 in 10 Spanish people (41 percent) feel their emotional health has been affected due to the current situation of uncertainty (66 percent), lower morale (51 percent), fear and anxiety (44 percent) and insecurity, demotivation and apathy (43 percent).

While 7 percent say that they feel “very bad” mentally, 25 percent of people also feel lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental agility and memory, reporting that they feel more tired (63 percent), stressed (51 percent) and find it difficult to concentrate (48 percent) and manage day-to-day stress (42 percent), among other factors. The most affected by this are women (28 percent versus 21 percent of men) and people between the ages of 27 and 35.

Compared with European data, this emotional health data shows us that, in general, the mood in Spain is better than across Europe. According to data from an Avance study, emotional well-being in Europe is between 5.4 and 6.4 points on a scale of 0 to 10. Specifically, France has the best score (6.4 points), followed by Germany (6.2 points) and the United Kingdom (6.1 points). These are followed by three countries in southern Europe—Portugal, Italy and Spain—which shows that, in regions such as these where people are more extroverted and sociable, the coronavirus and lockdown measures have had a greater impact.

It is clear that, in countries that tend to be happier and more positive like Spain, the coronavirus is having a huge impact on people. It would make sense that the Spanish, along with the Portuguese and Italians, would be more heavily impacted by the coronavirus and lockdown measures than others, given that the culture tends to be more extroverted and social, more physically close and oriented toward spending time outdoors.

 

Changing habits

In recent months, the habits that have changed the most in Spain are: social distancing (83 percent), avoiding closed and crowded spaces (78 percent), making homemade food (40 percent), spending more time with family (44 percent) and being more responsible with consumption (43 percent).

A total of 41 percent of Spanish people feel that their emotional health has taken a hit as a result of the crisis. Half of these people say that the reason for this is feeling despondent, while 4 in 10 say it is due to fear and anxiety. Almost half of people have felt “calm” during lockdown but this figure has been reduced by five points in light of the “new normal.”

 

The new normal; more uncertainty

The study, conducted through 2,500 interviews that took place this September, also shows that people saw lockdown as a time of reflection; the progressive reopening as a time of physical but not emotional freedom; and the new normal as a time of uncertainty. The people most affected are women, people under 35, those who live in cities, households with a large number of people and areas with the lowest purchasing power.

The full report is available at www.fundacionmapfre.org