Social Planning Cowichan has released results from their spring COVID-19 surveys.
“The COVID-19 crisis impacted us in unprecedented ways. Some experienced inconvenience and uncertainty accessing food, others feared for the future of their families due to impacts on household income. Results identified particular challenges for those struggling with physical and mental health concerns, as well as families with children, aging parents or family members with mobility issues,” Social Planning Cowichan said in a press release.
The survey results were broken up into four categories: food security and household activities; work and household income; personal and family well being; and families with children, aging family members, or disabilities.
Results found that in spring 2020, household activities like cleaning, watching shows and movies, internet usage, renovations, playing games, arts and crafts, and playing music all increased. Forty-five per cent of survey respondents indicated an increase in producing their own food, with nine per cent also raising livestock.
More Cowichan residents were spending time in the kitchen. Results show that 47 per cent of respondents decreased fast food consumption, 48 per cent decreased ordering take-out. Meanwhile, 60 per cent increased the amount they cooked at home, and 52 per cent said they increased baking. Forty per cent of respondents indicated that their weekly food budget has increased.
Under work and household income, 52 per cent of respondents indicated that their income decreased due to the pandemic, and 51 per cent reported that their household savings decreased. A further 48 per cent said that their retirement savings decreased.
About 25 percent of respondents said that there was no change in their household income, two per cent said their income increased, but 59 per cent said that they lost some income in some way, either reduced hours, the temporary loss of a job, or a permanent loss of a job. Despite the high percentage of respondents who lost at least some income, only 33 per cent of respondents said they applied for CERB. Sixty-four per cent of respondents believe a universal basic income should be implemented.
Results were varied in the personal and family well-being category. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said that their mental health was worsened by the pandemic. They reported feeling anxiety from a loss of social connection, not seeing loved ones as much as they would like, not being able to participate in church and community activities, and worries about losing work and income as key factors in their worsening mental health.
On the other side, 23 per cent reported that their mental health improved because they had more time for self care, they were able to slow down, spend more time outside, and had more time to focus on spiritual and wellness practices.
Forty-five per cent of respondents said that their physical well-being is worse due to the pandemic. Respondents said that no access to the pool, gym, fitness classes, yoga, Tai Chi, or dance has resulted in weight gain, increased pain, increased blood sugar and blood pressure. Respondents also said that reduced access to therapeutic services like massage, chiropractic, and physiotherapy was negatively affecting pain levels, and resulted in increased depression and anxiety.
Families with children also reported negatives and positives. Seventy-six per cent of respondents with children reported that their children had an increase in screen time, increased outbursts and moody behaviour, more arguments, poor sleeping habits, and were less focused.
Despite the challenges, families have enjoyed more time together, improved bonds and relationships, and an increase in outdoor activities and creativity. Children are finding new ways of learning by reading, online learning series and apps, and YouTube. Kids are also getting outdoors by taking walks and getting involved in gardening.
Families with aging family members were concerned about caring for their aging family members and staying connected with them. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents said they could only interact with aging family members virtually or over the phone.
Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said they have a family member with disabilities or mobility issues. Many services they rely on were no longer available in the spring including: assisted bathing, foot care, doctors, dentists, physiotherapy, counselling, cleaning services, hearing specialists, optometrists, occupational therapists, home supports, respite care, and case workers.
Caregivers experienced extra stress with limited opportunities for support due to canceled services. Many stated they were not able to prioritize their own needs or take a rest. Sixteen per cent of survey respondents felt the changes to their caregiving situation was unsustainable, 13 per cent experienced limited opportunities for residential respite or day programs, 25 per cent were concerned with allowing outside community support services in the home.