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Social Impact of COVID-19 by Age Group

April 2020

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Younger adults report greatest decline in well-being in April 2020

The Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey  carried out by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in April 2020 provides insight into the impact of the pandemic on Irish society. The survey covered topics such as well-being, personal concerns related to certain impacts of COVID-19, changes in consumption behaviour, working life and compliance with official COVID-19 advice. This analysis presents results from the survey broken down by age and illustrates how the pandemic has had a greater impact on younger adults in terms of well-being when compared to older people.

Analysis of CSO well-being data shows that there has been an 80% decrease in the number of young adults aged 18-34, who rated their overall life satisfaction as High in April 2020 when compared with the 2018 rate. An EU-wide survey by Eurofound also in April 2020 reported that almost a quarter of this age group in Ireland felt lonely All or most of the time over the two-week period prior to interview - the second highest rate in the 17 EU countries for which data was available. Commenting on the survey results, Eurofound said that the lowest levels of mental well-being are reported among young people and those looking for work. Loneliness is emerging as a key aspect of mental health with one-fifth of young Europeans feeling the strong impact of pandemic restrictions’.

Over four in ten younger adults in the CSO’s Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey reported that the pandemic had a Negative financial impact on them, compared to two in ten of respondents aged 70 and over.

When asked about their personal concerns, respondents aged 18-34 years were more likely to be Very or Extremely concerned about someone else's health (70.5%), compared with 56.0% of those aged 70 and over.

Consumption behaviours have also shown greater change amongst younger adults, highlighting the greater impact on their lifestyles compared to that of older age groups. For example, respondents aged 18-34 years were least likely to report No change in their consumption of alcohol, tobacco and junk food and sweets.

Well-being

Respondents in the Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey  were asked to rate their satisfaction levels with various aspects of their lives, (overall life satisfaction, satisfaction with the financial situation of their households and satisfaction with personal relationships) on a scale from 0 (‘Not at all satisfied’) to 10 (‘Completely satisfied’).  The mean score for each satisfaction level indicator was calculated by adding individual scores and dividing the total by the number of individuals.  Responses were also grouped as Low (0-5), Medium (6-8), or High (9-10).

Respondents aged 18-34 were the least likely to report High overall life satisfaction and they had the largest decrease across all age groups between 2018 and April 2020 (48.8% to 10.2%), a decrease of almost 80%. The corresponding decrease for respondents aged 70 and over was just over 60%, from 44.6% to 17.6%. The decrease in the mean score was also largest for respondents aged 18-34 over the period, from 8.3 to 6.2, and lowest for respondents aged 70 and over, for whom it dropped from 8.1 to 7.0.

Respondents aged 18-34 were also least likely to report High satisfaction with their personal relationships in April 2020. Over three in five of respondents aged 70 and over reported a High satisfaction rating for personal relationships in both 2018 (61.5%) and April 2020 (66.0%). In contrast, while almost three in five respondents aged 18-34 gave a High satisfaction rating for personal relationships in 2018 (59.4%), this fell to under two in five (36.5%) in April 2020.

The 18-34 year-old age group were most likely to feel nervous (51.2%), downhearted or depressed (45.2%) or lonely (41.5%), At least some of the time in the four-week period prior to interview. Respondents aged 70 and over reported much lower rates, at 13.0%, 14.5% and 17.2% respectively.

X-axis labelNervousDownhearted or Depressed Lonely
18-3451.245.241.5
35-4430.42917.2
45-5442.534.625.2
55-692828.523.5
70 and over1314.517.2

Results from some international surveys are revealing a similar pattern, whereby the well-being of younger people is reported to be impacted more than that of older age groups. For example, a survey by Statistics Canada, Canada’s national statistical agency, compared well-being levels in 2018 and 2020 and found ‘All age groups except individuals aged 65 and older were less likely to report excellent or very good mental health during the COVID-19 period. However, the difference between 2018 and 2020 was particularly evident for younger adults. For example, among those aged 15 to 24, 42% reported excellent or very good mental health during the pandemic compared to 62% in 2018’.  Meanwhile in the UK, a survey by the Office of National Statistics, found that the proportion of respondents aged 70 and over stating that their well-being was affected by the COVID-19 crisis (34%), was lower than the rate for all adults (43%). In addition, this older age group reported lower rates of ‘feeling lonely always/often/some of the time’ (20%) compared to the adult population (24%).

Results from the Eurofound’s Living, Working and COVID-19 survey found that across the EU-27, 16.5% of respondents aged 18-34 said they had felt downhearted and depressed All or most of the time in the two weeks prior to interview, compared to 13.0% of 35-49 year-olds and 10.9% of those aged 50 and over. In Ireland, the rate for 18-34 year-olds was the same as that of the EU-27 (16.5%). However, the rates for 35-49 and 50 and over age groups were considerably lower, at 8.5% and 4.7% respectively.

X-axis labelEU-27 Ireland
18-3416.516.5
35-49138.5
50+10.94.7

Personal Concerns

All age groups expressed more concern regarding someone else’s health rather than their own in the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey. Respondents aged 18-34 were most likely to report being Very or Extremely concerned about somebody else’s health (70.5%), and least likely to express concern about their own health (16.0%). Amongst those aged 70 and over, 56.0% reported being Very or Extremely concerned about somebody else’s health and 42.5% stated they were Very or Extremely concerned about their own health.

Comparing responses to concerns about maintaining social ties of the youngest and oldest age groups, nearly half (46.3%) of respondents aged 70 and over were Very or Extremely concerned about maintaining social ties, compared to 29.6% of respondents aged 18-34. In addition, more than half (53.4%) of respondents aged 70 and over, reported that their frequency of exercising had Decreased since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions. The comparable percentage for those aged 55 to 69 years was 22.9%. The Health Service Executive (HSE) advise to those over 70 was to take additional steps to reduce their risk of COVID-19 infection. These extra steps are called ‘Cocooning’. The higher proportion of respondents aged 70 and over that expressed concern about maintaining social ties and that reported a decrease in exercise compared to younger age groups may be due to cocooning.

X-axis labelNot at allSomewhatVery/Extremely
18-3421.44929.6
35-4422.941.535.6
45-5419.757.123.2
55-6917.450.532.1
70 and over15.138.546.3

Financial Impact

The Social Impact of COVID-19 survey asked respondents to rate the impact COVID-19 has had on their household's ability to meet their financial obligations. The highest rate for Negative financial impact was among those aged 18-34 (41.9%) and 45-54 (41.8%), while respondents aged 70 and over reported the lowest Negative financial impact at 21.1%.

X-axis labelNegative ImpactNo ImpactPositive ImpactToo soon to tell
70 and over21.169.45.54.1
55-6935.749.34.310.7
45-5441.839.96.611.7
35-4440.242.64.912.4
18-3441.938.77.112.1

Employment

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that ‘COVID-19 has the potential for long-term effects on youth unemployment, based on previous large economic shocks’. Results from the CSO’s Employment and Life Effects of COVID-19 Survey reported that of those whose employment was affected by COVID-19, 15-24 year-olds experienced the highest rates of loss of employment and temporary layoff, with 46% of 15-24 year-olds temporarily laid off and over a fifth (22%) experiencing loss of employment. Respondents aged  25-34 years also reported high rates of temporary layoff (39%) and loss of employment (15%).

X-axis labelLoss of employmentTemporary layoff
65+935
55-641635
45-541326
35-441029
25-341539
15-242246

Consumption

Results from the Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey show that younger adults were more likely to have changed their consumption of alcohol, tobacco and junk food. Almost one third (30.4%) of 18-34 year-olds that consumed alcohol stated that they had Increased their alcohol consumption during COVID-19, while 22.9% said they had Decreased consumption. In contrast, just 7.4% of those aged 70 and over that drank alcohol said that they had Increased consumption, while 15.5% had Decreased consumption and over three-quarters (77.1%) said that they had No change to their consumption levels. Almost seven in ten (69%) of 18-34 year-olds said that they had Increased their consumption of junk food and sweets, compared to just under three in ten (29.5%) of respondents aged 70 and over.

X-axis labelIncreasedDecreasedNo change
70 and over29.58.262.2
55-6927.116.356.6
45-5444.412.443.1
35-4442.915.242
18-34698.322.8

For further COVID-19 related information go to the CSO COVID-19 Information Hub

Further Information

Contact
E-mail: ICW@cso.ie