Impact of COVID-19: Americans report increased stress, shortages, poll finds

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and businesses and public gatherings remaining closed, a new Monmouth University Poll found that the coronavirus is having a major impact on the personal lives of Americans.

Nearly half of U.S. adults have reported having to deal with food and supply shortages, including 40% who have lost income and 25% who are feeling more lonely.

With roughly one in 14 Americans reporting someone in their family has contracted the virus (higher prevalence among racial minorities) and one in four personally knowing someone who got it, half of the public (50%) is worried someone they love will become seriously ill from COVID-19, up from 38% just three weeks ago. Another 33% are somewhat concerned while 9% are not too concerned and 7% are not at all.

“Americans feel an increasing impact from this public health crisis every week, maybe even every day. These results also underscore how certain groups, particularly racial groups, are being hit harder than others,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

In terms of impact, 62% of Americans said the outbreak has affected their daily lives, up from 53% in late March, while another 27% said it only has had a minor impact and 10% said no impact.

A large number of households have taken an economic hit, with four in 10 (41%) having lost income and work (up from 35% in late March), just over one in five (22%) struggling to pay bills and 30% having at least one person in the household laid off (7% have all wage-earners out of work).

Although many have taken an economic hit, most Americans are continuing to feel financially stable (62%). Another 26% said they are struggling and 11% said their finances are improving.

“Americans seem to be approaching the current situation as something that will hopefully pass quickly. This could change if the immediate economic slump drags on after the health emergency passes,” Murray said.

Another big impact the American public is facing amid COVID-19 is trying to find necessities. Just over half (52%) said there are items they need right now they can’t find in store or online, such as toilet paper (23%), hand sanitizer (16%), fresh food (13%), disinfectant spray (10%), antibacterial wipes (9%), rubbing alcohol (5%), bleach or other cleaning supplies (10%), paper products (11%), face masks (10%), and other medical items (2%). One third surveyed said they have bought more of certain items than they usually do (33%), with 9% saying they bought less and most (58%) saying their spending habits haven’t changed. Just under one in five (18%) have started getting groceries delivered, up from 12% in late-March, and 31% have spent more time online shopping, up from 22% last month.

Lifestyle changes have also occurred, with 29% of the public saying they have become less healthy since the outbreak, 14% saying they have become more healthy and 57% saying their health has remained the same. At the same time, screen time is up with 63% reporting more time spent watching TV and movies (57% in mid-March).

“Financial difficulties aren’t the only concern arising from this crisis. Many Americans are coping with challenges to their emotional well-being because of the restrictions on normal daily activities,” said Murray.

Anxieties are high, with a majority (55%) reporting their daily stress level has gone up during the outbreak, including 27% who say it has gone up a lot and 28% who say a little. Another 40% noted no change and 5% say it has gone down.

Although the virus is taking a toll on many lives, a vast majority (69%) feel hopeful they and their families will be able to get life back to normal after the pandemic. Another 26% are somewhat hopeful, and 3% are not too with 1% not at all.

The poll was conducted by telephone from April 3 to April 7, 2020 with 857 adults in the United States. There’s a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.