The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston has a new report out on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Along with “a powerful negative impact on economic activity,” the survey found that the virus and its accompanying stay-at-home mandates have significantly affected our mental health.
Mental Health Concerns
Women have more COVID-19 anxiety than men. The survey found that women experienced a higher level of worry, concern, loss of interest, and higher levels of COVID-19-induced anxiety, with 40% expressing anxiety several days of the week and 19% feeling anxious nearly every day.
The study analyzed survey results from 1,063 participants who live in the Houston area. It was fielded between May 20 and June 23.
Job Loss and Income Loss
Households in Houston have suffered sizable job losses and income losses, the report states. Twenty-one percent of respondents reported losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one-fifth of respondents were either granted a temporary leave of absence or had their work hours cut back due to the pandemic, and 64% said their situation lasted between one and three months.
Thirteen percent of respondents expressed a lack of confidence about being able to make their rental or mortgage payments on time.
“Job loss, furloughs and salary reductions cut across all layers of society, although workers who are Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino felt the greatest impact,” Sunny M.C. Wong, an economist and professor at the Hobby School, told the Houston Chronicle.
Then there’s the stress from parenting and keeping up with educational activities at home during the pandemic. The report shows that 22% of respondents spent about nine to 16 hours on educational activities. The more income a family had, the more hours that were spent on these activities with their children. However, when comparing households earning less than $25,000 to household incomes over $35,000, there was a 44 hour difference in time spent on education activities, with the higher income families allotting the greater amount of time.
Confidence in Political Leaders
Survey participants were more confident in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic than elected governmental leaders.
Those surveyed who were under 44 years of age were less confident in Gov. Greg Abbott than those who were 65 years and older.
The report states a low level of confidence for how President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are handling the pandemic. Forty-eight percent of respondents expressed no confidence in Trump’s performance.
Almost three-quarters of African American respondents, 50% of Hispanic and Latinx respondents, and 45% of Asian and Pacific Islander respondents had no confidence in how the president has handled the crisis thus far.
Contracting COVID-19 and Grief
The data shows that almost 30% of respondents said they personally know someone who has contracted the coronavirus. More than 10% of them lost family members or friends to the disease. Close to half of African Americans reported that someone in their household or extended family members contracted the virus, the largest proportion among the four race groups, according to the report.
Houston is Anxious
Dr. Michael Zvolensky, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor of psychology and director of the Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory-Substance Use Treatment Clinic at the University of Houston, said stressful events, such as living through a pandemic, can make anyone feel a bit anxious. Anxiety is a normal reaction.
“However, excessive anxiety about COVID-19 can cause great distress and disability,” said Dr. Zvolensky. “For example, excessive worry or ongoing fear about COVID-related stress is harmful when it becomes so omnipresent that a person cannot focus on reality or think clearly or carry out their daily responsibilities.”