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The impact of COVID-19 on Australians’ hopes and dreams

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In a recent study, researchers investigate the effect of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the hopes and dreams of Australians.

Study: A qualitative study of the impact of COVID-19 on the hopes and dreams of Australians. Image Credit: fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been proactive in preventing community transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). About 55% of all occurrences of COVID-19 in Australia have been in people between the ages of 20 and 49, with men and women equally affected. About 94% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in people over the age of 70.

Compared to the rest of the world, Australia accounts for a low percentage of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Surveillance, quarantine, testing and contact tracing, as well as outbreak response, have been key aspects of Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic response procedures. The Australian government has closed national borders and banned Australians from traveling overseas to reduce transmission and infection.

Impact of COVID-19 on individuals

While the adoption of effective public health measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has benefited Australia, the pandemic has had significant effects on the daily lives of individuals.

Compared to those living in more densely populated places, who have often been most at risk from SARS-CoV-2, those residing in cross-border areas have been particularly affected by the government’s anti-COVID-19 response. Thus, the uncertainties and limitations imposed on people’s future journeys, as well as their long-term hopes and goals, were inevitably affected.

About the study

In a recent BMC Public Health study, researchers gathered information about individual and community experiences with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The first phase of the project involved a survey of 677 people from various Australian states and territories. These people were recruited through professional networks and social media.

All survey participants were asked if they would be interested in being called for a follow-up interview, and 416 of them agreed. Of the 416 participants who expressed interest in a follow-up interview, 172 identified themselves as living with a chronic condition.

Interviews

Ninety of the original 172 participants from across Australia conducted telephone interviews between August 2020 and December 2020. All participants were at least 18 years old, lived in Australia and indicated that they had a chronic illness in the original investigation.

The interviews were semi-structured, with prompts centered on issues such as social distancing, hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting community behavior, as well as leaving the house. Prompts also included topics such as government guidelines on social distancing, changes in daily life, vulnerability to COVID-19, impact on physical health, sense of safety, impact on mental health and the risk of infection in his community.

A specific question was asked about how COVID-19 had affected participants’ future hopes and dreams. Although these themes were used as a starting point for the interviews, the researchers were advised to let the participants lead the conversation to observe the other issues raised.

Digital tagging was used to assign emerging themes to the original fieldnotes and build a searchable data set. Individuals’ goals and desires for the future were also addressed in the interviews.

Study results

Approximately 77% of study participants were female, while all study participants were between the ages of 20 and 81, with a median age of 50. Job stability, travel, reassessment of ideals, and generational effects emerged as four main themes in the data specific to future goals and desires.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia has resulted in the loss of educational and professional opportunities for some young people, thus affecting their future goals and dreams. Job security was an important concern among respondents, with the main fear being losing one’s job and not being able to find another one in the future. Male and female participants reported similar levels of anxiety about job security, a concern reflected across all age categories.

Many participants were also concerned about the uncertainty of travel, the boredom of canceled arrangements, and the inability to plan vacations abroad or future visits with family and friends. More than half of the 90 respondents included future travel in their discussions of goals and dreams, which was cited more frequently by women than men.

Australians found themselves at home and spending time with smaller social groups as daily commuting and social interaction were curtailed. Additionally, many participants expressed an interest in making every day count and appreciating the importance of family over material wealth. Participants also repeatedly mentioned improved environmental health and greater awareness of physical health.

Another recurring theme in many interviews was concern for future generations, with 11 women and seven men addressing the impact on future generations in their discussions of goals and dreams. More men than women expressed concern for younger generations, especially among participants in older age groups. This generational concern was voiced by concerned parents and grandparents and covered topics ranging from economic impact to mental impact.

Future prospects

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique situation in which individuals have felt helpless, both because of concerns about SARS-CoV-2 itself and because of initiatives by state and federal governments. . Respondents mentioned their mental health but also considered new possibilities for the future, indicating that issues related to psychosocial well-being were present throughout the interviews.

Journal reference:

  • Huang, QF, Rolf, F., Booker, LA, et al. (2022). A qualitative study of the impact of COVID-19 on the hopes and dreams of Australians. BMC Public Health 22(367). doi:10.1186/s12889-022-12746-4