After nearly a year of living through a pandemic, how are people feeling?

Covid disagreements over following the rules are making many across Britain fractious and fearful, according to our recent national survey

Mother adjusts daughter's mask
Every aspect of our day to day lives has changed since the pandemic

At this moment in time, March 2020 feels a bit like looking back on one’s childhood. How innocent we were. How little we knew back then.

The first lockdown announcement made by our PM was set to last a mere 12 weeks. Overnight a sense of community spirit blossomed.

Daily acts of kindness, from checking in on vulnerable neighbours to helping with food shops via WhatsApp, became commonplace.

Pull out quote from poll participant

Community spirit dwindles

Man sprays hand sanitiser
Taking precautions for the greater good

But as each glimmer of normal life returning has been crossed out in our diaries, the constant shadow of Covid-19 in our day-to-day lives is taking its toll.

As a result, many are now feeling fractious and fearful. Our recent poll with 2,000 adults across Britain puts this into stark perspective.

Rifts over rules

View of street through net curtains
Neighbours have grown increasingly suspicious of one another

Over half the people living in Britain today say those who disagree on the Covid rules are a threat to the country’s future.

With little else to distract us, many are turning on each other.

23% of us have become more suspicious of people in our community who hold a different approach to the rules than our own.

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And these disagreements about ‘the right way’ to comply with the government’s rules are causing a great deal of mental and emotional strain.

From increased anxiety (31%) to trouble sleeping (21%) and one in 20 of us suffering panic attacks.

Even the vaccine rollout – an extraordinary scientific achievement and welcome ray of hope – is causing cracks among friends and families.

One in 20 people (5%) have had bust-ups with loved ones over their views on taking it.

Where do we go from here?

How compliance is affecting mental health
How other people’s compliance with the Covid rules is affecting our mental health

“This could be a dangerous moment for the country, if we don’t find a way to pull together”, says Engage Britain’s Director, Julian McCrae.

“With so much at stake and things feeling out of our control, it’s hard to see past the stress of disagreements – but they can actually make us stronger.

“As we recover from this crisis, the public needs to have more of a say in the things that matter to them, using their different views, ideas and experiences to rebuild Britain.”

And as one person optimistically put it, each of us has the power to change things for the better. It’s never too late to make a start:

Community is our best way forward

Given the difficulties ahead, it’s encouraging that nearly one in three (31%) believe the pandemic has made them realise the importance of community.

Coming out the other side of this pandemic is going to need all of us to club together.

Overcoming our national challenges may be bigger than any one of us, but depends on all of us doing our bit:

As the nation looks to rebuild, Engage Britain is launching a national drive to bring together people from all walks of life, right across the country.

Bringing together different viewpoints

The goal is to draw on different views and experiences to find answers to Britain’s biggest challenges, the first being health and care (the public’s number one concern).

The national drive will kick off with 100 online conversations in communities up and down the country, giving thousands of people the chance to have their say.

Then a People’s Panel will be put together. This an invited group of about 100 members of the public from all walks of life.

Pull-out quote from Julian McCrae

Turning priorities into plans for change

The panel will make note of the views aired, experiences shared, issues raised and ideas put forward.

They’ll also be thinking about priorities: what changes would make the biggest difference to people’s health and wellbeing?

Engage Britain will then support different voices – from frontline staff to people who receive care support to our politicians – to work together on shaping these plans. 

The ultimate goal is that they are put into practice by the government, so everyone gets the health and care they need. 

Would you like to share your health and care experiences and help bring about lasting change? Find out how you can get involved.

About the survey

Survey commissioned by Engage Britain and conducted by Yonder to investigate public attitudes towards COVID in the UK

The survey asked seven questions about people’s experience of COVID and division to a nationally representative survey of 2,128 UK adults, with fieldwork conducted 5 – 7 February 2021

The raw survey data tables are available here

For any media queries, please email Freya Barnes

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