Survey Reveals: There Could be a Silver Lining to the Pandemic

GoodTherapy | Survey Reveals: There Could be a Silver Lining to the Pandemic

Survey Reveals: There Could be a Silver Lining to the Pandemic

Due to the growing need for resources and data surrounding the topic of COVID-19, Kendall Coffman, MS, MFT, conducted an online survey of 251 participants, recruited via snowball sampling, to better understand the impacts the pandemic has had on our lives and to find the silver lining to the pandemic. 

The survey consisted of multiple-choice questions, prompts where participants could select all answers that apply, and short response-style questions.

The results are broken down into two parts: 

  1. Explore the negative impacts the pandemic has had on participants and include resources to best navigate the struggles thrust upon us by the pandemic. 
  2. Examine the silver linings to the pandemic that may have been overlooked. 

Part I: The Negative Impacts of the Pandemic

The participants in the survey were presented with this prompt: If you feel as though the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted your life, please explain in a few short words. 

Based on the 200 qualitative responses received, themes were established, and the percentage of how often they appeared is listed beside them. For example, the theme Loss of connection appeared in 40% of participant answers. (Note: Some participants named more than one theme in a response, which is why the numbers add up to more than 100 in both sections of this report.)

Individualized Themes

The participants expressed concerns over a number of different categories:

  • Loss of connection (isolation) – 40%
  • Quarantine/travel sadness (can’t go anywhere) – 23%
  • Mental health concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression, and motivation) – 17.5%
  • Economy worries/employment issues – 14%
  • Someone I know was impacted/at-risk – 12.5%
  • Negative school experience – 9.5%
  • Fear/concern for future/my own risk – 6.5%
  • Conflict with friends/family or conflict with “non-believers” – 5%
  • Frustration (e.g., mask mandates or inadequate government response) – 5%

The individualized themes that surfaced can be further categorized, so let’s dig deeper.

Grouped Themes

At a higher level, all of these concerns can be packaged inside these four groups.

1. Isolation, connection, and quarantine struggles

Nearly two-thirds of participants — 63% — expressed concerns over their immobility and the fact that, forced to shelter in place, many participants felt a loss of connection with other people, leading to feelings of isolation.

2. Concern for the physical and emotional safety of others or self

Slightly more than one-third of participants — 36.5% — were either worried that someone they know was impacted by the virus or at higher risk of getting infected or that they themselves would be exposed to the virus. Due to these concerns, it comes as no surprise that a number of participants became anxious, lost motivation, and experienced depression.

3. Economy, employment, and school struggles

Roughly one-quarter of respondents — 23.5% — indicated they had negative experiences at school or were worried about their employment or the overall state of the economy. This makes perfect sense, as schools were forced to rapidly transition to remote learning, businesses were forced to shut their doors, and unemployment numbers skyrocketed.

4. Conflict with others

Additionally, one out of every 10 participants either expressed frustration with mask mandates and the government’s response to the pandemic or expressed concerns over conflict with friends and family members — or conflicts with non-believers, i.e., those who think the pandemic is a “scam” of sorts.

Resources to Cope with These Themes

If you are experiencing any of these impacts, take comfort in the fact you’re not alone. And never forget that you have the ability to overcome these struggles by taking a proactive approach and looking for qualified help.

 Resources that you can use to conquer negative feelings and get back to living your best life are outlined below: 

1. Isolation, connection, and quarantine struggles

2. Concern for the physical and emotional safety of others or self

3. Economy, employment, and school struggles

4. Conflict with others

If you’re having a hard time getting along with friends, family members, and acquaintances, consider these tips from Advent Health:

  • Recognize that people have different views of risk (e.g., one person might think skydiving is the best thing in the world while someone else might be terrified of it)
  • Reflect on and communicate your fears
  • Refer to trusted resources
  • Encourage your loved ones to think of others and be empathetic
  • Find a quiet time to establish some common ground 
  • Speak kindly and listen
  • Use stories rather than statistics 
  • Stay connected in ways that protect your comfort zone
  • Consider getting together at a time that doesn’t warrant a meal to avoid abrasive, uncomfortable conversations
  • Let it go and let it be

While this list of resources is by no means exhaustive, it should serve as a springboard to assist you in improving your outlook and building a better tomorrow. 

Takeaways from These Findings

These findings are not finitely representative of all of our experiences. Intersections of identity, social placement, and access to resources undoubtedly create different experiences for each of us.

That said, these findings invite us to reflect on our own experiences within the last year or two and consider what we need to do to begin stitching new colors into our future.

Part II: The Silver Lining to the Pandemic 

Yes, there were many silver linings to the pandemic that our survey participants have experienced. 

To collect these results, participants were presented with this prompt: If you feel as though the COVID-19 pandemic positively impacted your life, please explain in a few short words.

Based on the 142 qualitative responses received, five overarching themes were unearthed.

Themes

  1. Deeper connections (more time with family and friends; better relationships) – 39.4%
  2. Positive personal changes (increased gratefulness; personal growth; perspective change) – 31.6%
  3. Improved school or work situations (improved quality of job or school; improved finances; got to work from home or do remote learning) – 24.6%
  4. Better self-care (improved physical and/or emotional health) – 11.9%
  5. Got to spend more time at home (more time for chores; didn’t have to travel) – 11.2%

Could Good Come from COVID-19?

The findings from this preliminary study on the impacts of COVID-19 illuminate some of the resilient and arguably unexpected silver lining to the pandemic that some have experienced over the last couple years. Interested in what those could possibly be, check out each theme below.

Connection

We are all wired to be social creatures. In the absence of connection, there can be suffering. This is evident in Part I of this article, which reveals that the leading struggle in the COVID era has been the lack of quality connections and relationships. 

However, one silver lining that has come out of the last year-and-a-half is that many of us have become more intentional with our connections and have been able to spend more time at home with loved ones. For example, one participant said:

“I was able to take time with my family at our house. Otherwise, we would be doing other things. I had time to write Christmas cards and connect with people far away since we weren’t going places.”

Personal change

One of the more powerful themes that emerged from the data was the fact that participants used the pandemic to improve their own lives. In fact, many participants said that they’ve reprioritized, reorganized, and evolved as a result of the pandemic and its societal ramifications.

For example, two participants said: 

“I believe people’s lives have dramatically slowed and that has given them time to learn more about themselves.”

“I have grown as a person and discovered myself.”

Employment/School Improvements

Nearly one-fourth of participants mentioned that their work or school life improved during the pandemic. For some, this was a result of being able to work from home. For others, the fact that the world slowed down a bit helped them get centered and do good work. 

Self-care

Although similar to the personal change theme, self-care appeared often enough that it made sense to name it as its own theme. While the personal change theme specifically addresses a change in perspective or self-examination, the self-care theme addresses the intentional self-act to care more for one’s own emotional and physical well-being. 

More time at home 

Last, a little more than 10 percent of participants mentioned that they were glad to have more time at home with no travel requirements. Some participants mentioned that they were able to do tasks that they normally would never have time for (e.g., home projects and hobbies).

Final Thoughts From Kendall Coffman

The COVID-19 era continues to leave a pervasive mark on our society, impacting all of us as individuals. The goal for this project was to help identify the struggles we’re all facing to see that we’re not alone in any of this, to help you see that there was a silver lining to the pandemic, and to get help to walk through any issues you haven’t resolved yet. 

Additionally, I hoped that we could also see how we’ve evolved as human beings, areas of prospective change, and moments of gratitude. 

I am so grateful to all of the participants who shared their stories with me. May these findings bring you comfort as we begin another year full of uncertainties.

Need some help to move you through your COVID-19 struggles? Search for a therapist near you today. 

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