We were all thrown into a new strict and unprecedented lifestyle when level four lockdown was imposed on March 23 last year. New research unpacks how we coped with that change.

Research on how New Zealanders coped with level four lockdown found most of us “got on with it, battened down the hatches, and prepared to ride it out”.

In the first fortnight of the level four lockdown, ResearchNZ surveyed 1000 people across the country with ten questions, including ‘Who and what were you most worried about?’ and ‘What were the upsides and downsides of living at Alert Level 4 Lockdown?’.

From our responses they developed a coping index, which divided us into three groups, ‘Worriers’, ‘Neutrals’, and ‘Copers’.

The majority of those surveyed were in the Neutral group (61 percent), while 20 percent were worriers and 18 percent were copers.

There were a few factors that clearly differentiated whether someone might be a coper or a worrier.

Access to technology was a significant factor in how people coped. Worriers reported much lower levels of access to technology, and much higher levels of disconnection from their friends and family (59 percent). Only 13 percent of copers felt this disconnection, and actually over a third of respondents said they felt more connected because of the lockdown.

There was also a clear correlation between worriers and negative feelings about the lockdown and how the Government was handling the pandemic. Despite the anti-lockdown protests we saw, the negative responses shared by ResearchNZ were respondents wanting the Government to do more, not less - with a desire for more testing, an earlier lockdown and stronger business support.

However, overall there was very strong support for the Government’s Covid-19 response. 92 percent agreed or strongly agreed the right steps had been taken.

A fascinating finding of the survey is that more people found the lockdown less stressful than usual life (34 percent). That’s compared to the 27 percent of people who said lockdown was more stressful than regular life.

We might want to do some real introspection about why so many people found a pandemic less stressful than our everyday lives. 23 percent said the most positive part of lockdown was having time for relaxation and reflection.

Unsurprisingly, how stressful people found the lockdown was a large factor in whether they were a worrier or a coper. 56 percent of worriers found the lockdown more stressful, as opposed to only 6 percent of copers.

Worriers were also drinking more alcohol and smoking more, while copers reported drinking and smoking less.

The ResearchNZ report concludes with evidence from the World Happiness Report 2021 findings that our Government’s response have led to “significant beneficial impacts” on our emotional wellbeing. But it warns that this is an ongoing crisis, and our ability to cope will continue to be tested.


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