The Aussies suffering the most from isolation anxiety
Baby boomers and apartment dwellers are bearing the brunt of anxiety related to isolation and coronavirus fears with wellbeing levels falling to record lows among all Australians.
But, despite the rise of 'ISO-anxiety', higher levels of life worth and life satisfaction are emerging, revealing that pets, personal safety, family, relationships and home are the key to our state of happiness with a higher levels of life worth (up 0.4 points) and life satisfaction (up 0.3 points).
Australian wellbeing levels have fallen according to the NAB Australian Wellbeing Survey which shows that four in 10 Australians are now "highly anxious," an increase from three in 10 last survey.
But NAB's Head of Behavioural & Industry Economics, Dean Pearson said coronavirus isolation has forced Australians to confront what truly makes them happy, giving us "wisdom that usually only comes with age".
"It looks like in this big social experiment we are all in is giving us a bit of perspective," he said, adding that pet ownership is the highest wellbeing driver, followed by personal safety, relationships, homes and standard of living.
"If you don't have a dog, cat or budgie - get a pet," he said.
"If there is one thing you can do for your wellbeing - get a pet, our animals are clearly having a big positive impact."
Wellbeing is assessed across four categories; life satisfaction, life worth, anxiety and happiness and the NAB Australian Wellbeing Index fell 1.5 points to an equal survey low of 62.8 in Q1 2020, well below its long-term average (64.5 points).
This decline was driven by heightened anxiety (down 4.7 points to 53.2) and Australians were also less happy (down 1.9 points to 64.5).
Mr Pearson said a big part of the spike in anxiety could be the discomfort with significant change but also noted how quickly people and businesses were adapting to things like remote fitness, education and food delivery.
While the survey shows that coronavirus fears are having an impact on anxiety across nearly all demographic groups, two groups of Australians reported particularly large increases in anxiety - apartment dwellers and people over the age of 65.
Mr Pearson said the sharp rise in anxiety among over 65s was important.
"While older Australians still have by far the highest levels of wellbeing and lowest levels of anxiety, historically the survey shows this group as among the less anxious, happiest and most resilient," he said.
Traditionally wellbeing in housing is driven by whether people own or rent but this report showed that apartment dwellers are disproportionately impacted regardless - possibly reflecting the unique challenges of trying to social distance and live in communal areas.
Securing a job also fed into wellbeing with the survey continuing to show wellbeing lowest for unemployed Australians and by a significant margin.
"When people become unemployed, their wellbeing falls sharply. This of course reflects a loss of income, but there are also other factors such as loss of social status, connection and purpose. Very few of us would choose not to work," Mr Pearson said.
Professor of Educational Psychology John Munro, from Australian Catholic University, said the coronavirus global pandemic has challenged every aspect of our lives but that resilience is something that can be learnt, even when coping in self-isolation with small children or having lost a job.
"We need to be able to bounce back from each change, some people naturally do this better than others, but you can teach yourself to be more resilient."
"The first thing you need to do is to accept that the world and how we live has changed. You need to do things differently. Prepare yourself emotionally to change. This means adjust your goals for everyday living and how you will do things."
He said it is not "about looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses" but rather making sure the negative is balanced with the positive.
"Break the things you need to deal with into small steps, you can always think forward and have a plan."
The survey also explores the issue of trust - which Mr Pearson said is critical in getting people to co-operate towards a common goal of containing the spread of the virus.
While trust in Government is low, it is rising, with increase in trust levels in both Federal and State governments between first and second survey wave.
"This may indicate Australians are placing more trust in the information coming from governments as the coronavirus continues to have a bigger economic and social impact," said Mr Pearson.
PROFESSOR MONRO'S TIPS FOR WELLBEING
1. The first thing you need to do is to accept that the world and how we live has changed. You need to do things differently. Prepare yourself emotionally to change. This means adjust your goals for everyday living and how you will do things.
2. Recognise your feelings
Recognise your feelings to it and use them to your advantage.
3. Take control as much control as you can of your situation. Look for all the aspects of your life you can control.
4. Take time to plan how you will do things differently. Make a list of what things are essential in your life and what things are less important. Then decide how the imposed changes will impact on the essential things.
5. Keep things in perspective and see that you are coping through the things you are doing.