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In a recent study, researchers investigate the effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the hopes and dreams of Australians.

Study: A qualitative study of how COVID-19 impacts on Australians' hopes and dreams. Image Credit: fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been proactive in preventing community transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). About 55% of all COVID-19 occurrences in Australia have occurred in people between the ages of 20 to 49, with males and females being affected equally. About 94% of COVID-19-related deaths have occurred in people over the age of 70.

Compared to the rest of the world, Australia accounts for a small percentage of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Surveillance, quarantine, testing, amiodarone causing long qt and contact tracing, as well as outbreak responsiveness, have been the key aspects of Australia's COVID-19 pandemic response procedures. The Australian government closed national borders and prohibited Australians from visiting overseas to reduce transmission and infection.

Impact of COVID-19 on individuals

While the enactment of efficient public health measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 benefited Australia, the pandemic has had significant effects on individuals' everyday lives.

Compared to those living in more densely populated places, who often had the highest exposure to SARS-CoV-2, those residing in cross-border areas were particularly affected by the government's anti-COVID-19 response. Thus, the uncertainties and limits imposed on people's future paths, as well as their long-term hopes and goals, were inevitably affected.

About the Study

In a recent BMC Public Health study, the researchers gathered information on individual and community experiences with the COVID-19 epidemic.

The first phase of the project included a survey of 677 individuals from various Australian states and territories. These individuals were recruited through professional networks and social media.

All survey participants were asked if they would be interested in being called for a follow-up interview, 416 of whom agreed. Out of the 416 participants who expressed an interest in a follow-up interview, 172 identified themselves as living with a chronic illness.

The interviews

Ninety of the original 172 participants from around Australia completed phone interviews between August 2020 to December 2020. All participants were at least 18 years old, lived in Australia, and indicated that they had a chronic condition in the original survey.

The interviews were semi-structured, with prompts centered on issues such as social distancing, handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting community behavior, as well as leaving the house. The prompts also included topics like government guidelines on social distancing, changes to daily life, COVID-19 vulnerability, impact on physical health, feeling safe, impact on mental health, and risk of infection in one's community.

One specific question was asked on how COVID-19 had affected the participants' future hopes and dreams. While these themes were used as a starting point for interviews, the researchers were advised to let the participants lead the conversation to observe what other issues came up.

Digital tagging was utilized to assign emergent themes to original field notes and construct a searchable dataset. Individuals' goals and desires for the future were also addressed in the interviews.

Study findings

About 77% of the study participants were female, whereas all study participants were between 20 and 81 years of age, with a median age of 50 years. Job stability, travel, reassessing ideals, and generational effects emerged as four primary themes from the data specific to future goals and desires.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia resulted in the loss of school and work opportunities for some young individuals, thereby affecting their future goals and dreams. Job security was a significant concern among interviewees, with the primary fear is losing one's job and not being able to find another one in the future. Male and female participants indicated similar anxiety levels regarding job security, a concern reflected across all age categories.

Many participants were also concerned about the uncertainty of travel, the annoyance of canceled arrangements, and the inability to plan abroad vacations or future visits with family and friends. Over half of the 90 people interviewed included future travel in their discussions of goals and dreams, which was cited more frequently by women than men.

People in Australia found themselves staying at home and spending time with narrower social groups because daily journeys and social interactions were reduced. Furthermore, many participants expressed interest in making each day count and appreciating the importance of family over worldly wealth. The participants also mentioned improved environmental health several times and a deeper awareness of physical health.

Another recurring theme in many interviews was a concern for future generations, with 11 women and seven men addressing the impact on future generations in their discussions about goals and dreams. More males than females expressed concerns for younger generations, particularly in participants of the older age groups. This generational concern was expressed by concerned parents and grandparents and covered topics ranging from economic impact to mental impact.

Future outlook

The COVID-19 pandemic created a unique situation in which individuals felt powerless, both because of concerns regarding SARS-CoV-2 itself and a result of state and federal government initiatives. Interviewees mentioned their mental health but also considered new possibilities for the future, thereby indicating that issues related to psychosocial welfare were present throughout the interviews.

Journal reference:
  • Huang, Q. F., Rolf, F., Booker, L. A., et al. (2022). A qualitative study of how COVID-19 impacts on Australians' hopes and dreams. BMC Public Health 22(367). doi:10.1186/s12889-022-12746-4

Posted in: Men's Health News | Medical Research News | Women's Health News | Disease/Infection News

Tags: Chronic, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Disease COVID-19, Mental Health, Pandemic, Public Health, Respiratory, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, Severe Acute Respiratory, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Syndrome

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Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018.During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.

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