Self-reported wellbeing fell after lifting of Covid restrictions, ESRI finds

Researchers say decline may be linked to seasonal effects, but trend hard to explain

People say their wellbeing declined following the removal of most Covid-19 restrictions, in a finding researchers are struggling to explain.

Self-reported wellbeing fell after the lifting of restrictions and remained lower last month than it was in December, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute.

While suggesting the decline in wellbeing may be linked to seasonal effects and/or the adjustment to life without public health measures, it admits the trends remains “hard to explain from available data”.

People who walk, run or cycle every day report significantly higher wellbeing, and this is the only behaviour recorded in the ESRI’s regular social activity measure that shows a consistent relationship with exercise.


However, the latest update of the measure shows significantly fewer people exercised last month, compared with late January and early February. Researchers posit this may be due to bad weather limiting the opportunity to exercise outdoors.

The latest version of the monitor covers February 15th to 22nd, after the Government said it would remove most remaining restrictions but before this actually happened.

There was little change in social activity from the previous two-week period, possibly due to bad weather, and no change in the numbers wearing masks in shops.


Levels of worry continued to fall, but one in five people are still highly worried. Worry about the economy increased.

Many people experienced positive life changes due to the pandemic, the ESRI says, with majorities saying they spend more time at home, go out less and have more time to themselves. About half of those surveyed report changes to their work-life balance and work flexibility and most of these judge these changes positively.

One in five workers who previously commuted using public transport now use other transport modes, but the vast majority who previously travelled by car continue to do so, as do those who previously walked or cycled.

Over a quarter of workers say it would be feasible to do their job from home, but just 12 per cent report that their employer has offered hybrid working.

Most of those for whom working from home is feasible report being happy with the arrangement. The ESRI says general wellbeing is significantly higher among those who are happy with their hybrid working arrangement.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.