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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on jobs, lifestyle, stressors, wellbeing, moving, health precautions and use of health services

Reference period
24-29 June 2020
Released
13/07/2020

Key statistics

  • Fewer Australians reported feeling restless or nervous in June compared to April 2020.
  • 24% experienced some personal stress due to COVID-19 in June.
  • 9% of Australians reported suffering loneliness in June compared with 22% in April.
  • 92% of Australians continued to keep their distance from people.

About this issue

This publication presents results from the seventh Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, a longitudinal survey which collects information from approximately 1,000 people fortnightly via telephone. This cycle was conducted between 24 June and 29 June 2020.

The seventh cycle collected information on:

  • personal and household stressors
  • feelings of emotional and mental wellbeing
  • lifestyle changes
  • precautions taken due to COVID-19
  • use of Telehealth services
  • likelihood of seeking health care or advice for respiratory infections
  • extent of disruption to services for people with a disability
  • whether people intend to move in the next year
  • job status.
     

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

About this collection

This survey 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. Each cycle has collected information on different topics.

Results from the earlier Household Impacts of COVID-19 Surveys can be found using the following links:

At the time of the survey, initiatives in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the economy included:

  • international travel restrictions
  • an economic stimulus package (12 March)
  • border control measures for some states and territories
  • shutting down of non-essential services and a second economic stimulus package (22 March)
  • a Coronavirus Supplement announced on 22 March, to be paid fortnightly from 27 April to eligible income support recipients along with their usual payments
  • a safety net package of $1.1 billion to expand mental health and Telehealth services, increase domestic violence services and provide more emergency food relief (29 March)
  • social distancing rules and additional shutdown restrictions (20–30 March)
  • free childcare for working parents (2 April)
  • a JobKeeper Payment passed in legislation on 15 April and paid to employers to keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the COVID-19 restrictions
  • easing of restrictions on elective surgery gradually from 28 April
  • National Cabinet agreeing on a three-stage plan to ease restrictions (8 May)
  • easing of restrictions in all states and territories from mid-May, with all in stage 2 and some in stage 3 at the time of the survey.
     

Most states and territories either had no cases or small numbers during enumeration. Cases of COVID-19 had begun to rise again in Victoria with 15 to 20 cases per day in the week before and numbers rising to 75 new cases on the final day of enumeration. New South Wales was recording between five and ten cases daily at the same time.

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

Personal and household stressors

Key findings

  • Fewer Australians experienced one or more sources of personal stress due to COVID-19 in June compared to April 2020 (24% compared with 43%).
  • Around one in eleven Australians (9%) reported suffering loneliness in June compared with one in five (22%) in April 2020.
  • In June 2020, one in seven Australians (15%) reported someone in their household had experienced one or more of the selected household stressors. This was less than in April 2020 when one in five Australians (22%) reported experiencing household stressors.
     

Personal stressors

Personal stressors are events or conditions that occur in a person's life that may adversely impact on the individual’s or their family's health or wellbeing.

The survey collected information on personal stressors due to COVID-19 in the last four weeks (referring to June 2020). Similar information was collected in early May for the last four weeks (referring mostly to April 2020) when the COVID-19 pandemic first peaked in Australia.

The stressors included whether people experienced:

  • the inability to get a job
  • rental, mortgage or financial stress
  • had problems maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • had problems managing current health concerns, mental health or chronic conditions
  • experienced relationship difficulties
  • suffered loneliness
  • had problems with smoking.
     

One in four (24%) Australians experienced one or more of the listed sources of personal stress due to COVID-19 in June 2020. This was a marked decrease from the two in five Australians (43%) who experienced one or more personal stressors in April 2020.

Loneliness was the most widely reported source of personal stress in June 2020 at around one in eleven people (9%). This was around half the rate of April 2020, when one in five people (22%) reported suffering loneliness.

Similarly, compared to April 2020, fewer Australians reported experiencing:

  • problems maintaining a healthy lifestyle (8% in June compared with 19% in April)
  • problems managing health concerns (5% compared with 10%)
  • relationship difficulties (3% compared with 7%).
     
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  1. Respondents may have experienced more than one personal stressor.
  2. Includes current health problems, mental health or chronic conditions.
  3. Proportions of all persons across all tenure types.
  4. Refers to the four weeks before 29 Apr - 4 May 2020.
  5. Refers to the four weeks before 24 - 29 Jun 2020.

By sex

In June 2020, similar proportions of men and women reported experiencing one or more personal stressors due to COVID-19. The biggest difference between results for men and women was in regard to problems maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Women were more likely than men to report this stressor (10% compared with 5%).

Both women and men were less likely to experience one or more personal stressors due to COVID-19 in June 2020 compared to April 2020:

  • One in three women (27%) in June 2020 compared to one in two (48%) in April 2020.
  • One in five men (21%) in June 2020 compared to two in five (39%) in April 2020.
     

The biggest decrease for women was related to suffering loneliness due to COVID-19 (10% in June 2020 compared to 28% in April 2020). Men showed the biggest decrease in response with problems maintaining a healthy lifestyle (5% in June 2020 compared to 16% in April 2020).

By age

In June 2020, more people aged 18-64 years reported experiencing one or more personal stressors due to COVID-19 compared with those aged 65 years and over (27% compared with 16%).

This was the same for April 2020 when 46% of people aged 18 to 64 years reported experiencing one or more personal stressors compared to 32% for people aged 65 years and over.

In June compared with April 2020, there was minimal change or a decrease for all stressors for people aged 18 to 64 years. The stressors that did decrease between April and June were:

  • loneliness (9% in June compared with 23% in April)
  • problems maintaining a healthy lifestyle (9% compared with 22%)
  • problems managing health concerns (5% compared with 11%).
     

For those aged 65 years and over, there was minimal change in June compared with April 2020 for most personal stressors. The only significant change for people aged 65 years and over was for loneliness (9% in June compared with 20% in April 2020).

Household stressors

The survey also asked people aged 18 years or over whether anyone else in their household experienced COVID-19 related stress in the four weeks before late June 2020 related to unemployment, rental properties, mortgages or finances. The same questions were asked in the four weeks prior to early May (referring to April 2020). The following data combines results for personal stressors and the stressors of others in the household.

In June 2020, one in seven Australians (15%) reported someone in their household had experienced one or more of the selected household stressors. This was less than in April 2020 when one in five Australians (22%) reported someone experiencing household stressors.

Comparing June 2020 and April 2020, Australians reported their household experiencing:

  • involuntary job loss (3% in June and 6% in April)
  • problems getting a job (6% in both June and April)
  • problems paying the mortgage for their home or an investment property for those living in a home owned with a mortgage (5% in June and 13% in April)
  • difficulty paying the rent, or a fear of eviction, for those living in a rented dwelling (11% in both June and April).
     
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  1. Household members may have experienced more than one stressor. Components are not able to be added together to produce a total. Where household members have experienced more than one stressor they are counted separately for each stressor but are counted only once in the aggregated total.
  2. Includes if the respondent lost their job in the last 4 weeks due to COVID-19.
  3. Proportions of all persons, regardless of tenure.
  4. Refers to the four weeks before 29 Apr - 4 May 2020.
  5. Refers to the four weeks before 24 - 29 Jun 2020.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

Key findings

Fewer Australians reported feeling restless, nervous or that everything was an effort in June 2020 compared with April 2020:

  • One in four Australians (25%) felt restless or fidgety at least some of the time in June 2020, compared with 42% in April 2020.
  • One in four Australians (25%) felt nervous at least some of the time in June 2020, compared with 35% in April 2020.
  • One in five Australians (19%) felt everything was an effort at least some of the time in June 2020, compared with 26% in April 2020.
     

With the exception of nervousness, the proportion of people reporting feelings associated with anxiety and depression in June 2020 were similar to the ABS 2017-18 National Health Survey (more detail below).

Emotional and mental wellbeing

The survey asked Australians about feelings that impact on emotional and mental wellbeing. The feelings selected are those associated with experiences of anxiety and depression. Respondents were asked how frequently in June 2020 they felt:

  • nervous
  • hopeless
  • restless or fidgety
  • that everything was an effort
  • so depressed that nothing could cheer them up
  • worthless.
     

The same questions were asked in mid-April covering the period when Australia was reporting peak levels of new daily cases of COVID-19. Comparing the two periods, fewer Australians in June 2020 reported at least some of the time feeling:

  • restless or fidgety (25% compared with 42% in April 2020)
  • nervous (25% compared with 35%)
  • that everything was an effort (19% compared with 26%).
     

Results for June 2020 were also compared with results from the ABS’ 2017-18 National Health Survey (NHS) which collected similar information about people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. Most of the results for June 2020 aligned with the results from the 2017-18 NHS. The only area that differed was in relation to feelings of nervousness. One in four Australians (25%) felt nervous at least some of the time in June 2020 compared to one in five (20%) in the 2017-18 NHS.

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  1. Includes responses of ‘all of the time’, ‘most of the time’ or ‘some of the time’.
  2. Results from the ABS’ 2017-18 National Health Survey.

In June 2020, people aged 18 to 64 years were more likely than those aged 65 years and over to have felt the following at least some of the time:

  • restless or fidgety (28% compared with 16%)
  • nervous (28% compared with 15%)
  • hopeless (9% compared with 4%) the health
  • so depressed that nothing could cheer them up (7% compared with 3%).
     
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  1. Includes responses of ‘all of the time’, ‘most of the time’ or ‘some of the time’.

Seeing a doctor or other health professional

Those who experienced one or more of the feelings at least a little of the time were asked if they had discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional. In June 2020, 12% of people discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional, similar to April (10%).

Lifestyle changes

Key findings

  • One in five people (19%) who usually consume soft drinks reported drinking less in the last two weeks than was usual prior to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • 44% of people reported more time spent in front of their television, computer, phone, or other device.
  • Similar proportions of people in May and June 2020 reported increases in their consumption relative to before COVID-19 restrictions.
     

Consumption habits

The survey asked respondents if their consumption of selected products had changed in the last two weeks, compared to what was usual for them before COVID-19 restrictions started in March. The proportions exclude people who reported they never consume the selected products. The question included consumption of:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • snack foods, e.g. chips, lollies, biscuits
  • take-away or delivered meals
  • soft drink, cordials or energy drinks
  • alcohol
  • vitamins, minerals or other supplements.
     

Compared with usual consumption before COVID-19 restrictions, people reported increases in consumption of:

  • snack foods (22% consumed more)
  • take-away or delivered meals (18%)
  • vitamins, minerals or other supplements (14%).
     

Compared with usual consumption before COVID-19 restrictions, people reported decreases in consumption of:

  • take-away or delivered meals (26% consumed less)
  • soft drink, cordials or energy drinks (19%)
  • snack foods (14%).
     

Compared with usual consumption before COVID-19 restrictions, 72% of Australians reported drinking alcohol at the same levels, 15% reported drinking less, and 14% reported drinking more.

Around one in four women (28%) reported increasing their usual consumption of snack foods compared to one in six men (16%).

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  1. Aged 18 years and over.

People aged 18 to 64 years were more likely than those aged 65 years and over to report:

  • increasing their consumption of alcohol (16% compared to 5%) and take-away or delivered meals (19% compared to 10%)
  • reducing their consumption of soft drinks, cordials or energy drinks (20% compared to 11%).
     
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  1. Aged 18 years and over.

The same question on consumption habits was asked in early May 2020 referring to the previous four weeks (April 2020) compared with the time before COVID-19 restrictions. There was minimal difference in the responses reported on consumption for most of the selected items in April and June 2020.

Time spent on activities

The survey also asked respondents if they were participating more, less or the same in selected activities in late June compared with their usual participation before COVID-19 restrictions started in March. The proportions in this section refer only to people who usually participate in the selected activity. The activities included:

  • personal screen time on phone, computer, TV or another device
  • time with pets
  • exercise or other physical activity
  • cooking or baking
  • hobbies, such as art, craft, board games, puzzles, video games or reading
  • household chores such as housework, gardening, or renovations
  • online shopping or spending.
     

Notable increases in the reported participation in activities in late June compared to prior to restrictions in early March included:

  • personal screen time on a phone, computer, TV or other device (44% spent more time)
  • time with pets (35%)
  • cooking or baking (34%) – 40% for women and 27% for men
  • online shopping/spending (33%) – 40% for women and 25% for men.
     

While three in five (60%) reported no change in their usual time spent on exercise or other physical activity, one in five (21%) spent more time and one in five (19%) spent less time. People aged 18-64 years were more likely than those aged 65 years and over to report an increase in physical activity (22% compared to 14%).

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  1. Aged 18 years and over.
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  1. Aged 18 years and over.

The same question on time spent on activities was asked in early May 2020 referring to activity in the previous four weeks (April 2020) compared with the time before COVID-19 restrictions.

Compared with the time before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in March, fewer Australians reported they had spent more time doing the following activities in June than in April:

  • time with pets (35% in June compared with 53% in April)
  • household chores such as housework, gardening, or renovations (25% in June compared with 42% in April)
  • hobbies, such as art, craft, board games, puzzles, video games or reading (28% in June compared with 43% in April)
  • personal screen time on a phone, computer, TV or other device (44% in June compared with 58% in April).

Precautions

Key findings

  • The majority of Australians (92%) continued to keep their distance from people.
  • Around two in three people (66%) were avoiding social gatherings with people who did not live with them.
  • Over three quarters (77%) of Australians who had the COVIDSafe app had it running when out in public spaces.
     

Precautions taken in the last week

From mid-May, most states and territories had begun to ease restrictions. The restrictions in place allowed people to gather in small groups outdoors and inside some venues. There were limits on the number of people allowed to gather, and social distancing rules applied.

In late June, almost all Australians (96%) took one or more precautions in the previous week due to the spread of COVID-19. These included:

  • keeping distance from people (92%)
  • avoiding social gatherings (66%), public spaces (57%) or public transport (52%)
  • disinfecting surfaces before using them (68%)
  • getting home deliveries (20%)
  • wearing a facemask (13%).
     

People aged 65 years and over were less likely than those aged 18–64 years to get home deliveries as a precaution due to the spread of COVID-19 (9% compared with 23%).

Compared with late May, fewer people were taking the following precautions in late June:

  • avoiding social gatherings (79% in May compared with 66% in June)
  • getting home deliveries (27% in May compared with 20% in June).
     
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  1. Precautions taken in the week before interview in early May.
  2. Precautions taken in the week before interview in late May.
  3. Precautions taken in the week before interview in late June.
  4. Topic not collected in early May.

COVIDSafe app

The voluntary COVIDSafe app has been developed to assist in contacting people who may have been exposed to coronavirus. More information can be found on the Department of Health COVIDSafe app information page.

The survey asked respondents about their use of the COVIDSafe app in late June 2020.

Use of the COVIDSafe app in public spaces

Of people who had downloaded the COVIDSafe app, more than three quarters (77%) had the app running while out in public. There was minimal difference between age groups in the rates of running the app while out in public.

Reasons for not downloading COVIDSafe app

For people who had not downloaded the app:

  • nearly half (48%) did not see the need to have the app
  • almost one quarter (24%) raised privacy concerns
  • one in six (17%) did not have a device to support the app.
     

For people who had not downloaded the COVIDSafe app, people aged 65 years and over were more likely than those aged 18–64 years to not have a device that supports the app (37% compared with 10%). Australians aged 18–64 years were more likely than those aged 65 years and over to report that they did not see the need to have the app (54% compared to 33%).

Health service use

Key findings

  • One in five Australians (20%) used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks.
  • Around half of Australians (47%) were likely to use Telehealth services beyond the COVID-19 restriction period.
  • Nine in ten Australians (91%) were very or somewhat likely to seek health care or advice if they experienced mild respiratory symptoms.
     

Use of a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks

Telehealth services include any appointments with a health professional over the phone, by video conferencing, or through other communication technologies. The survey asked about the use of Telehealth services for the previous four weeks in June 2020. Australians were also asked in early May 2020 about their use of Telehealth services for the previous four weeks in April 2020.

In late June 2020, one in five Australians (20%) used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks. This was similar to the use of Telehealth services in April (17%). In June 2020, women were more likely than men to have used the service (25% compared to 14%).

Reasons did not use a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks

For those people who did not use a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks (80%):

  • 86% reported that health services were not needed
  • 12% reported they prefer to speak in person with health professionals
  • 5% said the service was not recommended or suitable for their condition.
     

Future use of Telehealth services

Australians aged 18 years and over were asked whether they would consider using Telehealth services after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Almost half (47%) reported they would use a Telehealth service in the future. Women were more likely than men (53% compared to 42%), and people aged 18 to 64 years were more likely than people aged 65 years and over (52% compared to 32%) to consider using Telehealth services.

People who reported they would use a Telehealth service in the future were asked why. The main reasons given were:

  • convenience (69%)
  • saving time (37%)
  • not having to travel (37%).
     

Of the people who reported they were not likely to use a Telehealth service in the future, the main reasons were:

  • preferring to speak in person with health professionals (87%)
  • not recommended or suitable for their condition (5%).
     

Seeking help or advice for mild respiratory symptoms

Australians experiencing mild respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath are recommended to get tested for COVID-19. Refer to the Department of Health information page for the latest advice on symptoms and testing: What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19).

The survey asked how likely people were to seek health care or advice for mild symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a sore throat, cough, fever or aches and pains.

Of people aged 18 years and over:

  • 71% were very likely to seek health care or advice
  • 20% were somewhat likely to seek health care or advice
  • 9% were not likely to seek health care or advice.
     

Disruptions to regular disability support services

The survey asked whether anyone in the household with disability experienced disruption to the regular support provided to them through formal service providers, since 1 March 2020.

One in ten people (10%) lived with disability or lived in a household with someone with disability, but only 6% reported they regularly use support services.

Of these people who regularly used disability support services, almost one-third (29%*) reported experiencing a disruption to their regular services since 1 March 2020. Types of disruptions reported included: cancellation of services; changes in how the services were delivered; and changes in the frequency of the services.

Moving house

Key findings

  • For most Australians (94%) COVID-19 was not expected to influence plans to move house over the next year.
     

Moving house in the next 12 months

The survey asked whether people intended to move residences in the next 12 months.

One in six people (12%) expected to move within the next year. Of the people planning to move, most plan to relocate within the same state or territory (91%) or interstate (7%). No respondents expected to move overseas.

Most Australians (94%) reported that COVID-19 had no influence on their plans to move in the next 12 months, while 4% reported they were less likely to move and 2% more likely.

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Job status

Key findings

  • The proportion of Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours remained steady at 61% throughout the month of June.
     

Current job status

The survey collected information on the current (late June) job status of all respondents, and whether their job situation had changed in the previous two weeks.

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 Margin of Error (MoE) on these estimates is around seven times greater than for Labour Force statistics (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.

Table 1 shows the self-reported job status of Australians aged 18 years and over covering the period early March to late June.

Table 1 - Persons aged 18 years and over, self-reported job status

 Early March (1st survey cycle)(a)Early April (1st survey cycle)(b)Mid-April (2nd survey cycle)Early May (3rd survey cycle)Mid-May (4th survey cycle)Late May (5th survey cycle)Mid-June (6th survey cycle)Late June (7th survey cycle)
 %%%%%%%%
Has a job
66.2
63.4
63.6
64.2
63.2
63.0
64.6
64.2
Working paid hours
64.0
55.8
56.6
59.0
58.7
59.1
61.1
61.4
Not working paid hours
2.2
7.6
7.0
5.3
4.5
3.8
3.5
2.8
Does not have a paid job(c)
33.8
36.6
36.4
35.8
36.8
37.0
35.4
35.8
a. Job situation four weeks prior to survey in early April.
b. Current job situation at time of survey in early April.
c. Includes all people without a job and should be considered only a loose approximation for the combined “unemployed” and “not in the labour force” groups.

 

The survey found the proportion of Australians aged 18 years and over who had a job working paid hours remained steady at 61% throughout the month of June.

The proportion of people who reported they had a job but were not working paid hours fell for the sixth consecutive time since early April, to 2.8% in late June.

The results of the most recent Labour Force Survey, with data in respect of the first two weeks of May, collected over a three-week period from 10 May to 30 May, can be found using the following link: Labour Force, Australia, May 2020 (cat. no. 6202.0). The June 2020 results will be released on 16 July 2020.

What's next?

The ABS followed up with the same people on 6 July 2020 to undertake the eighth and final cycle of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. The topics included:

  • job status
  • mental health status and use of support services
  • time spent on unpaid care and domestic work
  • perceptions of the future after the COVID-19 pandemic.
     

Information from the eighth survey will be released on 27 July 2020.

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 pandemic.

Household Impacts visual summary

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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey results

The following section describes the visual summary presented above.

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

  • 9 in 10 likely to seek health care or advice if they experience mild respiratory symptoms.
  • Compared to before COVID-19 restrictions in March, 44% of Australians spent more time on screens for personal use (e.g. phone, computer, TV), 35% spent more time with pets, 34% spent more time cooking and baking, and 33% spent more time online shopping.
  • 1 in 5 people who usually consume soft drinks reported drinking less than before COVID-19 restrictions.
  • 1 in 5 used a Telehealth service in the previous four weeks. 47% would be interested in using Telehealth services beyond the COVID-19 restriction period.
  • Fewer Australians reported feeling restless, nervous or that everything was an effort in June 2020 compared with April 2020. 25% felt restless or fidgety at least some of the time in June, compared with 42% in April. 25% felt nervous at least some of the time in June, compared with 35% in April. 19% felt everything was an effort at least some of the time in June, compared with 26% in April. 12% discussed these feelings with a doctor or other health professional.
     

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

Data downloads

Data item list

Tables 1 - 15