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Living with COVID-19 restrictions in

Research conducted by Global and Women's Health, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine

How are you? Living with COVID-19 restrictions in Australia

Monash University Human Research Ethics project ID: 24080

Australia has rarely experienced anything on the scale of COVID-19 and the restrictions designed to limit the spread.

During 2020, Monash University conducted two anonymous online surveys to see how people in Australia were experiencing life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first was available online from 3 April to 2 May 2020 and was the largest survey of nationwide mental health during the height of the restrictions in Australia. The second survey was conducted during July and August 2020, just after the second wave of infections and subsequent stage four restrictions were mandated in Victoria. In this survey, we listed potential policies to assist recovery and asked respondents to rate their usefulness.

The survey results are available below.

Results of the first survey

Almost 14,000 responses to the first survey were recorded from people aged from 18 to 90 years. They came from all Australian states and territories and from rural and urban areas.

This was the largest survey of nationwide mental health during the height of the restrictions in Australia. It was available online from 3 April to 2 May 2020 and was completed anonymously.

A statistical process called weighting ensured that the results are likely to reflect the experiences of the population as a whole.

The survey found a widespread increase in psychological symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and irritability that people attributed to the COVID-19 restrictions. People experiencing the worst symptoms were more likely to have lost their jobs, be caring for children or other dependent family members, or to be living alone or in an area with fewer resources. Nevertheless, on average people were more optimistic than pessimistic about the future and many described good things that had happened to them because of the restrictions.

The Medical Journal of Australia has published the results – see full paper here.

We have developed a policy brief summarising our findings – see policy brief here.

Papers investigating specific aspects of the impact of the restrictions on the health of Australians have been published from this dataset, including:

Read more:

  • Women bear the cost of the COVID-19 care load. 7 December 2020. Dr Karin Hammerberg covers recent research findings indicating that women caregivers are carrying the burden of COVID-19. Read more in Monash Lens.
  • COVID-19: Pandemic alcohol use and mental health problems. 26 October 2020. Dr Thach Tran and Professor Jane Fisher share research about the increased use of alcohol during the pandemic and reveal that people with mental health problems are most at risk. Read more in Monash Lens.
  • Mental health and the coronavirus: How COVID-19 is affecting us. 27 July 2020. Jane Fisher and Maggie Kirkman discuss the latest findings from their national survey into the mental health of Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more in Monash Lens.
  • Mental health. 26 July 2020. Victorians' mental health has taken a massive hit over the past four months, and data reveals more than half the population has been affected psychologically. Watch on 9 News Melbourne.
  • Coronavirus lockdown takes toll on mental health, with younger people worst affected, survey finds.12 June 2020. The largest survey of Australians' mental health during the stay-at-home restrictions found many of us felt anxious and depressed. Read more on ABC News.

Results of the second survey

Papers published from this dataset:

Read more:

  • We asked 9,000 Australians about their mental health needs post-COVID — this is what they want. 1 September 2021. The Global and Women's Health team shared the results of their survey in The Conversation recently. They asked 9,000 Australians about their mental health needs after the pandemic subsides.
  • Double trouble: How severe lockdown restrictions have taken a toll on population mental health. 6 August 2021. Research shows last year's lockdowns in Victoria were associated with near double the population prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Read more at Monash Lens.
  • If you're feeling low you're not alone. 29 July 2021. Prof Jane Fisher AO was featured in The Age in a piece focussing on the Global and Women's Health Team's survey from 2020 which found record levels of mental health symptoms during lockdowns.

Research and Funding

This study is being led by Professor Jane Fisher, Director, and Dr Maggie Kirkman, Senior Research Fellow, from the Global and Women’s Health unit at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

This research was enabled by a generous philanthropic donation from Professor John McBain and Dr Penny Foster, and by the Finkel Family Foundation, which supports Professor Fisher, who is the Finkel Professor of Global Health. Neither the researchers nor the donors have any conflict of interest in the research.

Recognising disenfranchised grief amid COVID-19

Professor Jane Fisher and Dr Maggie Kirkman recently applied their knowledge to the coronavirus pandemic, sharing their thoughts on the problems associated with disenfranchised grief in Monash Lens.

Disenfranchised grief is the term applied to experiences of loss that might not be recognised, either by the person experiencing the loss or by others. As with recognised grief (such as the death of a loved one), disenfranchised grief is accompanied by disbelief and shock, wishing reality was different or as it was before the loss, and then uncertainty and sadness as reality grows. Disenfranchised grief can be more psychologically damaging than grief that is recognised and supported.


If you would like to know more about the survey, you can contact the researchers:

School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

Professor Jane Fisher

Dr Maggie Kirkman

There are places you can contact for help and information:

Visit Global and Women's Health, Monash University