Coronavirus and the social impacts on the countries and regions of Britain: April 2020

Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in the countries and regions of Great Britain. This release uses four waves of survey results covering April 2020 to present results for Wales, Scotland and the nine English regions.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

Cyswllt:
Email James P Harris

Dyddiad y datganiad:
26 May 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
To be announced

1. Main points

  • Across Great Britain, 80% of adults were worried about the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was having on their life; this varied from 76% in the East Midlands and in Scotland, to 87% in the North East. We found those aged 16 to 34 years in the North East were particularly worried.

  • In London, three out of every five workers said that they worked from home in April 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic; this was higher than the other countries and regions, with workers in the East of England and East Midlands being least likely to work from home.

  • People in Wales were most likely to have access to a private garden, while people in London had least access, but Londoners compensated by being the most likely to visit a park or public green space, with people in Wales being least likely.

  • People in London had the lowest awareness of the government's Stay at home guidelines in April; awareness was highest in the West Midlands.   

  • The most neighbourly area was the South West, where 64% of people checked on their neighbours at least once in April, compared with London where 48% had checked at least once.

  • In Scotland and the North East, around half of people thought their household finances would remain the same in the coming 12 months, whereas people in London and the South East were more pessimistic, with almost half (48%) saying they expect their household finances to worsen.

Statistician's comment

"This is the first time we have analysed the country and regional differences in our regular research into how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people's lives.

"Levels of worry and concern are high across all countries and regions, with many of us keeping in touch with families and friends, but we also find differences in how lockdown has affected people around Great Britain.

"People in London were more likely to be working from home, with those in the East and East Midlands least likely, for example. Those in Scotland and the North East were most optimistic about their household finances. People in the South West have been most likely to check on their neighbours. We also found that people in Wales tend to have access to a garden, unlike Londoners, who were more likely to use public parks."

James P Harris, Cities Statistician, Office for National Statistics

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2. Understanding the impact on society

This bulletin presents data and indicators at the country and region level from a new module being undertaken through the Office for National Statistics' (ONS') Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on British society.

National level results are reported in the Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain series of bulletins. In this bulletin, and the associated tables of data, we present results for Wales, Scotland and the nine English regions. Where possible, we replicate results presented at the national level and also include more detailed analysis on specific topics including differences in activities people are undertaking at home, use of green spaces and attitudes toward the future outlook.

The statistics in this publication are based on a pooled dataset made by combining four waves of data collected by the OPN, providing survey data from 5,320 adults surveyed between 3 April and 3 May 2020. For simplicity, we will refer to "April" as the time period throughout this article.

More about coronavirus

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3. How the coronavirus has directly affected people

When asked whether they feel like they have enough information about what the coronavirus (COVID-19) is, 87% of people said they did, with people in London apparently being the least aware, at 84%, and people in the South West being the most aware, at 89%. However, there was fairly equal awareness across all countries and regions.

Official government advice during April was that people should self-isolate if they or someone in their household suspected experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19. Almost one-third of people lived with someone who self-isolated because of the coronavirus pandemic in April, with slightly more people doing so in the West Midlands (39%), Wales (37%) and Scotland (35%) and slightly fewer in the East Midlands and in Yorkshire and The Humber (29% each). Although people may have felt symptoms or chose to self-isolate, this does not necessarily mean they had actually contracted COVID-19.

Levels of worry and reasons for worrying

Across Great Britain, 8 in 10 adults (80%) said they were somewhat worried or very worried about the effect that the coronavirus pandemic was having on their life during April. This varied from 76% in the East Midlands and in Scotland, to 87% in the North East.

People aged 16 to 34 years were comparatively less worried than older age groups, where notably fewer people aged 16 to 34 years were worried or very worried (67%) in the East of England, South East and East Midlands compared with the 74% national average. However, people aged 16 to 34 years in the North East were the most worried group of all, with 94% of them being worried or very worried.

People who reported being worried or very worried were asked what their main concern was about the effect that the coronavirus pandemic had on their life. This varied between countries and regions, where we saw people in London being the most concerned about their health, well-being or access to care (30%) and people in Yorkshire and The Humber being the most likely to mention work, school or university (29%).

Around 12% of people were most worried about being unable to make plans, and around 10% of people in each country and region said that use of transport or ability to get groceries, medication and essentials was their main concern.

Access to groceries, medication and essentials

Of the people who were worried or very worried about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their life, 62% of them reported effects on either their access to, or their ability to get, groceries, medication or essentials or their ability to use transport in April. This varied from 57% of people in the North East to 71% of people in the East Midlands.

During April, 39% of people reported struggling to get groceries or toiletries in the past seven days, and it was people in the East of England and West Midlands where most people (43%) struggled but Scotland where the fewest people (33%) struggled. These percentages may have been affected in April by people potentially stockpiling materials near the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Effects on work

Across Great Britain, three out of every five workers (62%) who said they were somewhat worried or very worried about the effect that the coronavirus pandemic was having on their life reported that their work had been affected in April. This varied from 53% in the East of England and 54% in Wales, to 67% in Yorkshire and The Humber and 68% in the North East.

Asked whether people have worked from home because of the coronavirus pandemic in the past seven days, three out of every five workers (61%) in London said that they had done so during April, with one in five saying they had not and one in five saying they were unable to work from home. After London, workers in Yorkshire and The Humber, the West Midlands, and the South East were the next most likely to work from home, with about half of people saying they had done so. Only one in three workers in the East Midlands and East of England were working from home in April. About one in five people were not able to work from home in each country and region.

Of the people who were working from home, about 84% of them exclusively worked from home without also travelling to work, while 16% worked from home and also travelled to work. Workers in Scotland, the South East and London were the most likely to be working from home and not travelling, with 87% doing so, compared with 74% of workers in the North East where people were more likely to also travel.

We look at how people have been using work as a means of coping while the government's Stay at home orders were in place in Section 5: What people have been doing at home. Further details on changes to labour market participation and the impact on businesses from the coronavirus pandemic can be found in Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society.

Effects on household finances

When asked whether their household finances had experienced a reduction in income in April, 18% of people said they had, varying from 14% in the North East to 21% in the West Midlands. Men and women seemed to be equally affected, but the determining factors were whether a person was in employment and household type, where only 8% of single adults living alone experienced a reduction in income compared with 16% of households with two or more adults and 26% of households with children.

About half of people in each country and region think that, in view of the current economic situation, now is not the time to be making major purchases such as furniture or electrical goods. Similarly, about 42% of people thought that now was the right time to save money, with little difference between regions, varying from 38% in the South West to 45% in the West Midlands. We must note that although many people think now is the right time to save, only about 40% of people thought they would be able to save money in the next 12 months. Yorkshire and The Humber and Scotland were the two areas where the most people, 46%, thought they would be able to save, with all other areas being between 37% and 40%.

Further analysis on how different people and households are managing financially through the coronavirus pandemic, with breakdowns by age, household type and sex, was published on 3 May 2020 as part of Personal and economic well-being in Great Britain.

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4. How the coronavirus has affected people's well-being

Across Great Britain, 8 in 10 adults (80%) said they were somewhat worried or very worried about the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) was having on their life. When asked how their well-being had been affected in the last seven days, 86% of people who said they were somewhat worried or very worried said that they had felt either stressed, anxious or worried about the future or that their mental health had become worse in April. Both measures were felt fairly uniformly across Great Britain.

High levels of anxiety1 were reported by 38% of people during April. More people aged 16 to 49 years in London reported high levels of anxiety than people in other countries and regions did (51% compared with the 38% average), whereas fewer people aged 16 to 49 years in Scotland reported high anxiety (25%). Breaking results down by sex, we find slightly more women reporting medium or high anxiety and more men reporting low or very low anxiety. Women in the North West and in Wales were noticeably more likely than men to report high anxiety.

During April, 22% of people reported having felt lonely at least some of the time. Londoners were the most likely to report feeling lonely (26%) whereas people in the South East were the least likely to report feeling lonely (18%). Single adults living alone were the most likely to reporting feeling lonely, with 39% saying they felt lonely at least some of the time in April, compared with people in two or more adult households or in households with children where around 19% of people reported feeling lonely at least some of the time in April. There was a similar pattern in all countries and regions.

People also reported that strain on their personal or work relationships had affected their well-being in April. Most countries and regions had around 41% of people with this sentiment, but the three regions of the West Midlands (33%), East Midlands (30%) and the North East (28%) reported far fewer strained relationships.

Almost one-third of people reported that their well-being had been affected in some way other than loneliness, strained relationships or anxiety.

Notes for: How the coronavirus has affected people's well-being
  1. Following the same methodology as Personal well-being in the UK, high levels of anxiety denote people reporting scores of 6 to 10 on a scale from 0 to 10 when asked, "Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?".
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5. What people have been doing at home

Official government advice in April was for everyone to stay in their homes except for a limited number of reasons: essential shopping, medical reasons, one form of daily exercise and key workers travelling to work where it is not possible to work from home. Additional rules and guidance were also instigated in Scotland and Wales, but these results are for awareness of the above restrictions only.

In April, 83% of people said that they had followed the government's Stay at home guidelines, and virtually everybody, 96% of respondents, supported or strongly supported the government's Stay at home measures.

When asked what had helped them cope while staying at home in April, 79% of people reported that friends and family had helped. Most areas were close to average, but the North East at 73% and East Midlands at 74% were lower, and friends and family of people in both Scotland and the South East were more useful in helping 83% of people to cope. Although slightly more women than men reported that friends and family had helped them to cope (84% compared with 74%), the South West and West Midlands were the only areas where men relied on friends and family slightly more than women relied on friends and family. In April, 57% of people also said that people in their household had helped them to cope, with countries and regions all being between 52% and 61% and showing no significant differences.

After personal relationships, the next most commonly used coping strategy was exercise (either indoors or outdoors), where 63% of people said that exercise had helped them to cope while at home during April. Women were slightly more likely to use exercise to cope than men (66% compared with 60%), especially in Yorkshire and The Humber and the South East. It was only in Wales where men were more likely to cope by using exercise than women.

Slightly more than half (51%) of people aged 16 to 64 years who were in employment used work as a means of coping while staying at home in April. This percentage varied from 47% in the North East to 56% in Wales, with little overall difference between areas. In Great Britain as a whole, there was little difference between men and women. However, 60% of men in the East of England and 56% of men in Scotland used work as a means to cope at home, compared with only 42% of women doing so in both areas. In the South East, London and Wales, there were also large differences where women were more likely than men to use work as a means of coping.

People in London and Scotland were the most likely to use reading as a means to cope while being at home, with 51% of people in London and 47% of people in Scotland doing so compared with the average of 43% of people across Great Britain. Londoners were also more likely than people in other areas to cook, with 49% of people reporting they used cooking as a means to cope compared with the national average of 44%. In contrast, Londoners were far less likely to use gardening to cope while at home, at 34%, compared with the 44% average. Yorkshire and The Humber, at 50%, and the South West, at 51%, contained the people most likely to use gardening as a means of coping.

Films or streaming services (including online performances or tours) were used by 61% of people to cope in April, and 54% of people also reported using other activities not already mentioned to cope from home, although those activities were fairly evenly spread between the different personal characteristics and geographies.

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6. Reasons people left their house

During April, 16% of people left their house because they said they were a key worker travelling to or from work. There were slightly fewer (13%) in London, but slightly more in the North East (22%) and Wales (23%), with percentages in other areas being fairly similar. More information on people travelling to work can be found in Section 5: What people have been doing at home.

Around 62% of people left their house for the purpose of taking daily exercise in April. Only 54% of people in Wales did so, whereas people in the South and East of England were the most likely, at around 67%. People in employment were slightly more likely to leave home to undertake daily exercise compared with people not in employment (66% compared with 56%), particularly in the North East where it was 75% compared with 52%.

People in employment were more likely than people not in employment to have left their house in April because they needed to shop for necessities, had a medical need or needed to run errands (80% compared with 65%), particularly in the North East, Scotland, South West and West Midlands.

Making use of green space

Across Great Britain, 89% of people have access to a garden or (private) shared garden. However, this is heavily influenced by people in London, of whom only 74% have access to a garden. After London, it was people in the North West who were least likely to have gardens, at 86%, but people in Wales almost all had access to gardens, at 97%, closely followed by 96% of people in the East Midlands and East of England. Households with single adults living alone had least access to gardens (79%) compared with households with children or with two or more adults (91%).

As mentioned in Section 5: What people have been doing at home, 43% of people have been gardening as a means of coping while at home in April, ranging from only 34% of people in London to about half of people in Yorkshire and The Humber and the South West. However, while lacking their own garden or opportunities to do gardening, half of people in London visited a park or public green space in the past seven days during April; this is well above the average of 34% across Great Britain. It seems that people in each region have generally compensated for lack of a garden by making use of green spaces.

More information about gardens can be found in the recent release, One in eight British households has no garden.

Notes for: Reasons people left their house

  1. In this context, key workers are people who responded to the survey self-reporting that they had been given "key worker" status, and is not based on an official list of occupations.
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7. Effects on communities and personal relationships

In Section 5: What people have been doing at home, we reported that 79% of people reported that friends and family were helping them to cope while being at home in April and that 57% of people also said that people in their household were helping them to cope. However, in Section 4: How the coronavirus has affected people's well-being we reported that 18% of people reported that strain on their personal or work relationships had affected their well-being in April and 22% of people reported at least some feelings of loneliness.

In April, 70% of people believed that if they needed help, there were people who would be there to help them. This varied from 64% in London and 65% in the East Midlands, to 74% in Wales and 73% in the South East. More specifically, about 66% of people thought that if they needed help, then other local community members would support them during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. People were slightly more optimistic in the South West (74%) and in Scotland (71%) but least optimistic in the West Midlands (61%).

More than three-quarters of people across Great Britain thought that people were doing more things to help other people out since the coronavirus pandemic, with people in Yorkshire and The Humber and the South East slightly more optimistic, at 84%, compared with London and the North East less optimistic, at around 76%. It was in London where fewest people checked on their neighbours, with 39% of people saying they never checked on their neighbours and 48% saying they checked at least once. The most neighbourly area was the South West, where 64% of people checked on their neighbours at least once and only 24% had never checked.

However, in terms of doing errands for a neighbour, such as shopping or walking dogs, the countries and regions are far more comparable. On average, around 31% of people helped their neighbours at least once during April, varying from 26% in the North West to 36% in Yorkshire and The Humber and the East Midlands.

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8. People's outlook for the future

About half (51%) of people felt they had enough information about the UK's plan for dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in April, varying from 44% in London to 59% in the East of England. About 30% of people did not feel they had enough information; this was highest in Scotland (35%). About 18% of people were not sure whether they had enough information.

In April, 17% of people thought it would take more than 12 months for life to return to normal, if it ever does, and people were slightly pessimistic about the financial position of their household over the coming 12 months. Around 15% of people thought their finances would become better, 43% thought it would remain the same, and 42% thought it would get worse. In Scotland and the North East, around half of people thought their finances would remain the same in the coming 12 months, contrasting with the South East and East Midlands where only 36% of people thought so. People in employment were more likely to expect their finances to worsen than people not in employment, especially in London and the South East.

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9. Coronavirus and the social impacts on the countries and regions of Britain data

Coronavirus and the social impacts on the countries and regions of Great Britain
Dataset | Released 26 May 2020
Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) to understand the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in each of the countries and regions of Great Britain. Some further breakdowns by personal characteristics are available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on the countries and regions of Great Britain with breakdowns by personal characteristics.

Coronavirus and the social impacts on the countries and regions of Great Britain with breakdowns by personal characteristics
Dataset | Released 26 May 2020
Indicators from the OPN to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people, households and communities in each of the countries and regions of Great Britain. This dataset contains selected further breakdowns of results by personal characteristics including age, sex and household structure.

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10. Glossary

In employment

For this survey, a person is said to be "in employment" if they had a paid job, either as an employee or self-employed; they did any casual work for payment; or they did any unpaid or voluntary work in the previous week.

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11. Measuring the data

The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) is a monthly omnibus survey. In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we adapted the OPN to become a weekly survey used to collect data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on day-to-day life in Great Britain.

To enable more detailed analysis, such as the subnational breakdowns presented in this bulletin, four waves of this weekly OPN data have been pooled together and reweighted to create a larger dataset. By pooling data, we improve the sample size available to create smaller breakdowns of individual questions at the expense of having to report on a wider time period (one month rather than one week).

This pooled dataset contains 5,320 individual responses, representing an overall response rate of 66% for the waves of the survey conducted from 3 April to 3 May 2020. Survey responses were collected using an online self-completion questionnaire, with the option to take part over the phone.

The survey results are weighted to be a representative sample for the population. Weights were first adjusted for non-response and attrition, then calibrated to satisfy population distributions considering the following factors: sex by age, country or region, tenure, highest qualification, employment status, National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) group and smoking status. For age, sex and geography, population totals based on projections of mid-year population estimates for April 2020 were used. The resulting weighted sample is therefore representative of the Great Britain adult population by a number of socio-demographic factors and geography.

Some survey questions asked for people's responses in reference to "the past seven days". These results have been presented representing people's views during the month of April, even though people's attitudes may have changed slightly between different waves in April.

As some breakdowns are sourced from different-sized samples of people, confidence intervals have been included in the associated datasets where possible to indicate the robustness and significance of each estimated result.

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12. Strengths and limitations

The main strengths of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) include:

  • it allows for timely production of data and statistics that can respond quickly to changing needs

  • it meets data needs: the questionnaire is developed with customer consultation, and design expertise is applied in the development stages

  • robust methods are adopted for the survey's sampling and weighting strategies to limit the impact of bias

  • quality assurance procedures are undertaken throughout the analysis stages to minimise the risk of error

The main limitations of the OPN include:

  • the sample size is relatively small, although making use of a pooled dataset containing multiple waves of responses allows for more detailed analyses
  • comparisons between periods and groups must be done with caution as estimates are provided from a sample survey; as such, confidence intervals are included in the datasets to present the sampling variability, which should be taken into account when assessing differences between periods, as true differences may not exist

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the OPN QMI.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

James P Harris
cities@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1329 444656