Americans find positives in lockdown as anxiety soars: study

© AFP Johannes EISELE

Los Angeles (AFP) – Anxiety may be soaring under coronavirus lockdown, but a study Wednesday found Americans are enjoying more time with their partners and children, rediscovering hobbies and creative pursuits — and smoking marijuana.

The University of Southern California survey found Americans particularly miss visiting friends and relatives, dining at restaurants and shopping at real-world stores, but are adapting their habits at an astonishing pace.

“We’ve been thrust into the greatest social science experiment of all time,” Jeffrey Cole, the study center’s director, told AFP. “Except that none of us prepared and none of us volunteered.”

“We’re seeing massive change that would take years, in days,” he added.

The “Coronavirus Disruption Project” polled 1,000 online respondents across the nation about changes in their lives since the onset of the disease.

Some 61 percent reported feeling more anxious, while more than one-third said they are lonelier since the pandemic began.

But despite those woes, 35 percent said their relationship with their spouse or partner is better now.

And almost half of parents reported improvements with their children — perhaps because more than 80 percent of them have relaxed rules over bedtime, television viewing and video games.

“The anxiety levels are really extraordinary,” said Cole, comparing the pandemic to 9/11 or even the Great Depression.

“Men are more likely to think their relationship has improved,” he added.

With many quarantined and newly unemployed or furloughed Americans seeking a productive outlet, “hobbies, personal activities, and creative pursuits” ranked top of all preferred activities.

The study did not indicate much regret for long-lost hours spent out drinking, with bars ranking bottom of the activities people missed “a lot” at just 20 percent.

Still, more than 30 percent of drinkers admitted to an uptick in their alcohol consumption — and a whopping 42 percent of marijuana users were smoking more pot than pre-lockdown.

“We’re doing all the bad stuff,” said Cole, describing the leap in consumption among cannabis smokers as “pretty amazing.”

Although an end to the pandemic could be many months away, the study by the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau suggests the coronavirus may already have triggered a permanent shift in behavior — particularly in online habits.

More than one-third of Americans reported buying food online for the first time — and 39 percent intend to continue purchasing more products online once the crisis ends.

And — perhaps enjoying a break from their lengthy commutes, or the joys of “relaxed dress/grooming expectations” — some 42 percent want to work from home more after the crisis ends.

“For all the silliness, and we probably need a dress etiquette for Zoom… bosses are finding that Zoom works a good chunk of the time,” concluded Cole.


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