COVID-19 leads to shift in public attitudes about the role of the state

By agency reporter
June 16, 2020

New research published by the Health Foundation and Ipsos MORI finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased public recognition of the role of the state in supporting good health.

Nearly nine in 10 people (86 per cent) now believe the national government has a ‘great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of responsibility for ensuring people generally stay healthy, significantly up from 61 per cent in 2018. Similarly, 76 per cent see local government as having responsibility for people’s health (up from 55 per cent in 2018).  

The survey also shows that over three-quarters (77 per cent) of British people are concerned about the impact of social distancing on the health and wellbeing of the nation, a figure that rises to 83 per cent among over 65s. The survey sheds light on a range of health and wellbeing challenges people faced during the height of lockdown, such as finding it harder to communicate with friends and family (47 per cent), struggling to get basic food items (54 per cent), household goods (49 per cent) and essential medication (24 per cent) and access green space (33 per cent), which may be driving increased recognition of the role of the state. The research, undertaken in May, also indicates that 46 per cent of the population feel the crisis is affecting their mental health in one way or another.   

While some of the negative experiences reported in the survey will lessen as lockdown eases, the Health Foundation warns that the financial impacts revealed in the survey risk affecting people’s health and wellbeing in the longer term. In particular, the representative survey highlights that:

  • two fifths (41 per cent) of people have experienced a negative or significantly negative impact on their income 
  • significant numbers have had to dip into finance beyond their normal income, with 17 per cent accessing savings and 12 per cent using their overdraft as a result of the pandemic 
  • young people have been particularly affected, with 23 per cent of 18-24-year olds and 20 per cent of 25-34-year olds already having borrowed, or considering borrowing money from family and friends, compared to four per cent of those aged 65+.  

The Health Foundation has previously highlighted that measures necessary to control the spread of the virus are exacting a heavier social and economic price on some population groups over others. Government action is needed to protect the most vulnerable in the short term, but the Health Foundation calls on the government to do far more to improve health for all in the longer term.

* Read Public perceptions of health and social care in light of COVID-19 here

* The Health Foundation https://www.health.org.uk/


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