Almost 50 per cent of Irish people say their mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic, with young people “much more negative and directionless” than in pre-Covid times, according to new research from Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A).
The annual Sign of the Times survey, details of which are published in Saturday’s Irish Times, points to a significant percentage who say they are uncomfortable with how immigration has been managed.
The research also suggests that technology is increasingly being used as a “pacifier”, with social media addiction exacerbated by the isolation caused by the pandemic, particularly among younger people.
And it says an expressed desire to turn the slower-paced lifestyles enforced by lockdowns into enduring routines has faded, with people now snared in a “productivity trap”.
Almost half of those who took part in the research, conducted among a mix of focus groups and a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people, admitted to levels of exhaustion not seen in B&A surveys before, with 47 per cent saying they “feel tired all the time”.
The study also highlights the psychological impact of the Covid-19 crisis, with 44 per cent saying their mental health had suffered during the pandemic.
[ Ireland’s ‘productivity trap’: The slow lockdown lifestyle is over. People are exhausted ]
The disproportionate impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on the less well off is demonstrated by the fact the divide between middle-income households and lower-income households has widened significantly since the start last year.
In January 2020, 17 per cent of people described as working class said they were struggling financially, while 7 per cent of the middle class cohort were in the same position. At the start of this year, however, the percentage of the working class who were struggling was put at almost one in three compared with 13 per cent of the middle classes.
The study also suggests that tolerance for immigration is being eroded by “ever voluble right-wing voices” and it notes that while the political right remains small in Ireland, a substantial and vocal minority are more insular in their views of the world and Ireland’s place in it.
When presented with the statement “I worry that Ireland is losing its sense of identity with the influx of foreign nationals”, 43 per cent agreed while 35 per cent disagreed. And while 46 per cent said they “take pride in how Ireland has managed the inflow of Ukrainian refugees”, a further 27 per cent did not.
“I think we have to acknowledge that the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everybody but it’s not affecting everybody equally,” said B&A managing director Luke Reaper.
Addressing the concerns over the pace of immigration, Mr Reaper suggested that some concerns were fuelled by nostalgia rather than bitterness, and said Ireland had “become a much more diverse and accepting society” in recent years.