Teaching children the main stress source for families adapting to restrictions

Research finds the population has suffered a significant decline in wellbeing, with high levels of stress and anxiety

The research found a high awareness of the key messages around hand-washing and social distances, but lower awareness of cough and sneeze etiquette rules. Photograph: Getty Images

The research found a high awareness of the key messages around hand-washing and social distances, but lower awareness of cough and sneeze etiquette rules. Photograph: Getty Images

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Teaching children has emerged as the main source of stress for families adapting to Government-introduced restrictions designed to curb Covid-19.

Overall the population has suffered a significant decline in wellbeing, with high levels of stress and anxiety, according to draft research findings into the psychological impact of the measures.

Being outdoors, whether walking or gardening, had the most calming effect for people, the research conducted by a sub-group of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) indicated.

In contrast, home-schooling of children was the highest reported stressor for parents who responded to a survey of more than 600 people.

“While not completely surprising, the frequency with which home-schooling of children popped up as a source of stress points to the need for more support for parents in this endeavour,” said Liam Delaney, professor of economics at UCD, one of the members of the sub-group.

He said the consumption of social media regarding the epidemic was also a major source of anxiety among people.

The day reconstruction study was conducted on March 23rd and March 24th, after schools and colleges were closed but before the 2km limit of outside movement and cocooning of over-70s was introduced.

Key messages

Separate research commissioned by the behavioural change sub-group of NPHET found a high awareness of the key messages around hand-washing and social distances, but lower awareness of cough and sneeze etiquette rules.

One-quarter of people struggled to recall what they needed to do if they had coronavirus symptoms, and what to do if they came into contact with someone with symptoms.

The research suggested emotional and efficacy messages have a greater impact on behaviour than material stressing awareness of the rules.

People under 40, and men, seemed to be slightly less aware despite feeling they are more likely to contract the virus.

Prof Delaney said the high level of adherence to the restrictions showed no sign of dropping at the time the research was carried out.

The full study is due to be published shortly.