This is not the latest release View the latest release

Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on psychological distress, contact with family and friends, financial stress and stimulus payments received

Reference period
14-17 Apr 2020
Released
1/05/2020

Key statistics

Over the period mid-March to mid-April:

  • 31% of Australians reported that their household finances had worsened;
  • 28% of Australians aged 18 and over received the one-off $750 stimulus payment; and
  • Almost twice as many Australians reported signs of nervousness or restlessness compared to 2017-18.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the second Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, which collected information from 1,028 people, via telephone, throughout Australia between the 14th and 17th of April 2020.

Results from the first Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, released on the 20th of April, are available on the ABS website here.

This second iteration of the survey collected information on:

  • financial stress;
  • stimulus payments received and how used;
  • changes to job situation;
  • feelings of emotional and mental wellbeing; and
  • contact with family and friends.

The scope of the survey was persons aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote areas).

This collection series is designed to provide a quick snapshot about how Australian households are faring in response to the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time of the survey, a range of initiatives were announced to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the economy. These included:

  • introduction of international travel restrictions;
  • the first announcement of an economic stimulus package (12 March);
  • introduction of border control measures for some states and territories;
  • shutting down of non-essential services and the announcement of a second economic stimulus package (22 March);
  • a safety net package of $1.1 billion to expand mental health and tele-health services, increase domestic violence services and provide more emergency food relief (29 March);
  • social distancing rules and additional shutdown restrictions (20 - 30 March);
  • JobKeeper payment announcement (30 March);
  • free childcare for working parents (2 April); and
  • some states and territories announced learning from home arrangements for most school students for term two.

Proportions marked with an asterisk (*) have a margin of error >10 percentage points which should be considered when using this information. For more information about margin of error refer to the publication Methodology.

Household financial stress

Change to household finances

Nearly a third of Australians (31%) aged 18 years and over reported that their household finances had worsened over the period mid-March to mid-April due to COVID-19, while just over half (55%) reported that their household finances remained unchanged.

Persons aged 65 years and over were less likely than persons aged 18 to 64 to have reported that their household finances had worsened (20% compared with 35%).

Download

Ability to raise money for something important within a week

The majority of Australians (81%) reported that their household could raise $2,000 for something important within a week. This was lower than the 84% of people in 2014 who reported that their household could raise $2,000 for something important within a week (derived from ABS General Social Survey, 2014).

Approximately one in eight Australians (12%) reported that their household could raise $500 but not $2,000 for something important within a week, and one in twenty (5%) reported that their household could not raise $500.

Ability to pay bills on time

Less than one in ten Australians (8%) aged 18 years and over reported that their household was unable to pay one or more selected bills on time over the period mid-March to mid-April due to a shortage of money.

Financial actions

One in six Australians (17%) reported that their household took one or more financial actions to support basic living expenses during the period mid-March to mid-April.
The most common financial actions taken were:

  • Drawing on accumulated savings or term deposits (10%); and
  • Reducing home loan payments (3%).

Stimulus payment

Receipt of stimulus payment

Approximately one in four Australians aged 18 years and over (28%) said they received the first one-off $750 economic support payment from the Commonwealth Government over the time period mid-March to mid-April.

Persons aged 65 years and over were more likely to have received the first one-off $750 economic support payment than those aged 18 to 64 (60% compared with 19%).

How stimulus payment mainly used

Of persons who received the first one-off $750 economic support payment from the Commonwealth Government:

  • 53%* said the payment was mainly added to savings or not yet used; and
  • 17% said they mainly used the payment to pay household bills.

Persons aged 65 years and over were more likely to have added the stimulus payment to savings or not yet used it than those aged 18 to 64 (71% compared with 37%*).

Changes to job situation

The survey asked respondents if their job situation had changed in the first two weeks of April, and if so, how it had changed.

This survey is intended to provide a snapshot of the changes being experienced by people in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were asked simple questions about changes to their job situation, rather than the full suite of employment-related questions included in the ABS’ Labour Force Survey (see Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey, cat. no. 6232.0). The results of this survey are, therefore, not directly comparable to Australia’s official Labour Force measures. The margins of error on these estimates are around seven times greater than Labour Force statistics (given the Labour Force Survey sample is around 50 times larger).

More information about measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19 can be found here.

The survey found that 12% of people aged 18 years and over experienced a change in their job situation since the end of March. Of these:

  • 51%* said they had a job but were working less hours by mid-April; and
  • 49%* said they had some other type of job change, such as working from home, had a job working no paid hours or they had lost their job by mid-April.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over about their emotional and mental wellbeing over the period mid-March to mid-April. These feelings are associated with experiences of anxiety and depression. Respondents were asked how frequently they felt:

  • Nervous;
  • Hopeless;
  • Worthless;
  • Restless or fidgety;
  • That everything was an effort; and
  • So depressed that nothing could cheer them up.

The results from the survey were compared with results from the ABS’ 2017-18 National Health Survey (NHS), which also collected similar information about people’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

  • Two in five Australians (42%) felt restless or fidgety at least some of the time, compared with 24% in the 2017-18 NHS; and
  • One in three Australians (35%) felt nervous at least some of the time, compared with 20% in the 2017-18 NHS.
  • One in four Australians (26%) felt everything was an effort at least some of the time, compared with 22% in the 2017-18 NHS;
  • One in nine Australians (11%) felt hopeless at least some of the time, compared with 9% in the 2017-18 NHS;
  • One in fourteen (7%) felt so depressed that nothing could cheer them up at least some of the time, compared with 8% in the 2017-18 NHS; and
  • One in fourteen (7%) felt worthless at least some of the time, compared with 6% in the 2017-18 NHS.
Download

Women were more likely than men to have felt the following at least some of the time over the period mid-March to mid-April:

  • Restless or fidgety (47% compared with 36%);
  • Nervous (40% compared with 30%);
  • That everything was an effort (30% compared with 22%); and
  • So depressed that nothing could cheer them up (10% compared with 5%).
Download

Persons aged 18 to 64 were more likely than those aged 65 years and over to have felt the following at least some of the time over the period mid-March to mid-April:

  • Restless or fidgety (46% compared with 25%);
  • Nervous (39% compared with 22%);
  • That everything was an effort (29% compared with 15%);
  • Hopeless (13% compared with 6%); and
  • So depressed that nothing could cheer them up (9% compared with 3%).
Download

One in ten Australians (10%) who reported feelings that impacted on their emotional and mental wellbeing discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional in the period mid-March to mid-April.

Contact with family or friends

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over about their contact with family and friends outside of their household in the first two weeks of April, and whether the frequency of contact had increased or decreased since February.

In-person contact

The ABS’ 2014 General Social Survey found that three in four Australians (76%) had in-person contact with family or friends outside of their household at least weekly. In mid-April 2020, just under half (48%) of all Australians aged 18 years and over said they had in-person contact with family or friends outside of their household during the previous fortnight.

The survey also found that:

  • One third (33%) of people had decreased the frequency of in-person contact since February due to COVID-19; and
  • One in eight (12%) reported that their frequency of contact had remained unchanged since February.
     
Download
  1. Excludes a small number of persons who said they had no family or friends, and a small number of persons whose frequency of in-person contact increased.

Non face-to-face contact

Nearly all Australians (98%) said they had non face-to-face contact with family or friends outside of their household in the first two weeks of April. This included:

  • Verbal only phone calls (92%);
  • Text messaging or instant messaging (86%);
  • Video calls e.g. Skype, Facebook Messenger, Zoom (67%); and
  • Email (42%).

Persons aged 65 years and over were more likely to have used verbal only phone calls than those aged 18 to 64 years (97% compared with 91%), but less likely to have used video calls (50% compared with 71%) and text messaging or instant messaging (72% compared with 90%).

Download
  1. Excludes a small number of persons who said they had no family or friends, and a small number of persons who said they did not have any non face-to-face contact with family or friends.
  2. Examples include Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Zoom.

Approximately two in three Australians (64%) said they had non face-to-face contact with family or friends outside of their household in the first two weeks of April, and had increased the frequency of contact since February due to COVID-19.

More women than men reported increasing their frequency of non face-to-face contact with family or friends outside of their household due to COVID-19 (69% of women compared with 59% of men).

Download
  1. Excludes a small number of persons who said they had no family or friends, a small number of persons who said they did not have any non face-to-face contact with family or friends, and a small number of persons whose frequency of non face-to-face contact decreased.

What's next?

The ABS followed up the same survey respondents again on the 29th April to undertake the third cycle of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The topics covered in the third cycle included:

  • Current job situation and any changes in last two weeks;
  • Access to working from home arrangements;
  • Tenure type;
  • Long-term health conditions;
  • Use of Telehealth and barriers to accessing health services;
  • Precautions taken due to COVID-19;
  • Social distancing behaviours;
  • Personal and household stressors;
  • Lifestyle changes; and
  • Ability to get required support from other people or agencies.

Information from this third survey will be released in mid-May.

The ABS would like to thank all participants for their involvement in the survey. The information collected is of value to inform government and community responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Household Impacts visual summary

Show all

Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey results

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

Household impacts of COVID-19 include financial, well-being and social measures

  • 1 in 3 people's households are worse off financially
  • 81% of households are able to raise $2,000 in emergency, compared to 84% in 2014
  • 1 in 10 households has drawn down on savings
  • 3% have reduced home loan repayments
  • 1 in 4 Australians received the one-off $750 stimulus payment from the Government. 53% of payment recipients put it into savings. Recipients 65 years and older are more likely to save their stimulus payments (71%)
  • Almost twice as many Australians reported signs of nervousness or restlessness compared to 2017-18. Nervousness has increased from 20% in 2017-18 to 35% in 2020. Restlessness has increased from 24% to 42%
  • Australians are heeding social distancing measures, with fewer people seeing friends and family outside their home in person. In 2014, 76% had done so in the past week, compared to 48% in 2020


Detailed data on the impacts of COVID-19 can be found at abs.gov.au/covid19

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1-7

History of changes

Show all

05/05/2020 - A data cube containing a selection of tables was added to the Data downloads section.

04/05/2020 - Data item list - Kessler 6 (K6) data items updated.