The Big Conversation: Two-thirds of West Sussex residents suffering worse mental health

Two-thirds of West Sussex residents are suffering with worse mental health since lockdown began, according to our latest survey.

With over six months having passed since a national lockdown was levied on March 23, life in the UK has changed beyond recognition.

Employees have moved to working from home en masse, meeting up with over six people is now a crime enshrined in law and face mask wearing is mandatory in much of the public sphere.

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All these changes have uprooted and altered many people’s attitudes, priorities and lives, which is why we asked readers across West Sussex about what’s changed for you in our Big Conversation survey.

Two-thirds of West Sussex respondents to our survey had worse mental health than before lockdown began

The survey looked at a range of issues surrounding the pandemic, including changes to personal lives, travel habits, health, employment, local life and fears and hopes for the post-pandemic world, as part of a national campaign by our company, JPIMedia, to find out how you want society to look like after the pandemic ends.

One of the headline statistics was that two-thirds of respondents are suffering worse mental health since the lockdown began.

Here is the full breakdown of the survey - let us know your thoughts on Facebook or by email.

Getting out and about

City and town centres have suffered as a result of the pandemic, with a sustained drop in footfall even after March lockdown restrictions were lifted.

This is reflected in answers from respondents, with the majority saying they have visited their town or city centre “less” (26.9 per cent) or “a lot less” (40.6 per cent) than they did prior to lockdown.

Just two per cent said they are visiting “more”, and 0.7 per cent “a lot more”.

In terms of confidence in venturing out of the house, “visiting beaches, parks and green spaces” is an activity that 87.1 per cent of respondents said they feel either “comfortable” or “very comfortable” doing.

In terms of “going on holidays or short breaks in the UK”, 56.3 per cent of West Sussex respondents said they were either “comfortable” or “very comfortable” doing it, much higher than the UK average in our survey of 21.46 per cent.

Visiting friends and family was an activity most felt comfortable with doing, with 35.8 per cent saying they feel “very comfortable” visiting friends and family, and 43.9 per cent saying they feel “comfortable” with the idea.

Confidence in taking public transport is low, with 74.5 per cent of respondents saying they feel either “not comfortable” or “not at all comfortable” with it.

Respondents were unsure how confident they felt sending their children back to school, with the majority - 42.7 per cent - saying they didn’t know or weren’t sure how comfortable they felt with the idea.

Personal life

Respondents voted “visiting family” as the most important activity for a good quality of life - either pre- or post-pandemic - with 77.7 per cent saying this was important to their personal quality of life.

Visiting beaches and parks was a fairly close second, with 68.8 per cent of respondents saying this was important to their personal quality of life, followed by eating at cafes/restaurants with 64.9 per cent.

Just under 50 per cent - 47.7 per cent - of respondents said going on a holiday or short break in the UK was important to their quality of life.

Almost two thirds of respondents have become more thrifty since the pandemic began, with 60.2 per cent saying they’ve cut back on spending.

And while the High Street may have suffered from a drop in footfall, many local businesses have done well as a result of the crisis, with 46.9 per cent of respondents saying they are supporting local businesses more than they once were.

Getting online

Most respondents believe they’ve adapted to the move of many activities online well, with 51.4 per cent saying they’ve adapted “very well” and 36.9 per cent saying they’ve adapted “fairly well”.

For those who have struggled in some regard, the biggest problem - suffered by 57.5 per cent of respondents - was not having someone to turn to for help.

Employment

At the time of the survey, 61.1 per cent of respondents said they are currently in paid work,

followed by 28.9 per cent who aren’t. Just 3.6 per cent of respondents were on furlough.

Job security or income was a worry for some, with 39.6 per cent of respondents saying they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about their job security or income, while 50.8 per cent said they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about their personal or household finances.

Fears, concerns and hopes

There are some things that people want to see change permanently post-pandemic.

The largest proportion of respondents - 85.7 per cent - said that action to shift the the work/life balance in favour of family and leisure time was “important” or “very important” to them.

Greater flexibility to work from home and less emphasis on on-site working was deemed “important” or “very important” by 76.6 per cent of respondents.

Greater provision of affordable and carbon-neutral housing was deemed “important” or “very important” to 66.3 per cent of respondents.

Looking forward to Christmas, 71 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “The Christmas period will be a good opportunity to support local businesses”.

The impact of a second wave of coronavirus was a worry for well over half of respondents, with 59.3 per cent saying they were “very concerned” about the prospect, and 27.2 saying they were “slightly concerned”.

Faith in the government’s recent “rule of six” measure was deemed “not effective” or “not at all effective” in reducing the chances of a second wave by 73 per cent of respondents.

Local life

Refuse collection and recycling services were rated as the highest quality service during the pandemic, with 83.2 per cent rating them “good” or “very good”.

The emergency services were rated as “good” or “very good” during the pandemic by 57.7 per cent of respondents.

Social care services were deemed one of the lowest quality during the pandemic, with just 19 per cent of respondents rating them “good” or “very good”.

Almost two thirds - 63.4 per cent - of respondents believe that local hospitals are most in need of increased spending, while 53.1 per cent said the emergency services are in need of increased spending.

Over a third - 37.8 per cent - believe that their community has become stronger since the pandemic began, but the highest number - 40.7 per cent - say it has become neither weaker nor stronger.

Health

A number of respondents - 54.2 per cent - have not needed an appointment with a hospital or specialist since the pandemic began.

However, of the 45.4 per cent who did make an appointment, 36.5 per cent said they found making an appointment either “difficult” or “very difficult”, almost level with the 37.1 per cent who found it “very easy” or “easy”.

The statement that “Future healthcare funding should focus mostly on increasing the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers” was agreed with by 79.7 per cent of respondents, but just 47.9 per cent said that they would pay more tax to fund health and social care services.

The majority of respondents indicated that they are missing face-to-face contact with a GP, with 78.1 per cent saying they would like to access advice from their GP in person in the coming months.

Most - 62.7 per cent - however, would prefer to access prescriptions online in the coming months.

In terms of mental health, 20.7 per cent say their mental health has been “strongly affected” by the pandemic, while 46.2 per cent say it has been “slightly affected”.

While there was a wide age range of participants, the majority of those surveyed in the Big Conversation in West Sussex were aged 45-54 – around 25 per cent. Women made up 72 per cent of respondents.