It’s always interesting to look a bit deeper at the statistics we are seeing. In this article it’s interesting to see how the pandemic is absolutely affecting our well-being, from a financial, emotional and mental health aspect, but the impacts are very diverse. Tyler’s personal note here is similar to my own:
“On a more personal note, my own family’s life and flourishing has been affected in many ways that mirror the national well-being data. We are less happy, and have had greater concerns over physical and mental health. Our sense of meaning and purpose and character have been challenged, but there have also been opportunities for growth; with regard to social relationships, while there have been real losses with friendship and community, we have also experienced a deeper investment in both immediate family and extended family. Again, in many ways, this seems to reflect the changes on average in the nation. The one clear exception for my family to the broad changes reflected in this study has been our relative financial security. Indeed, this is the domain where changes, variability, and inequalities have likely been the greatest. In our data, it is the domain that has the very highest variance. Individual experiences have varied dramatically. Indeed, there is some indication that relatively well-off individuals in fact now have greater savings, since there are fewer opportunities for spending, while others have had their already modest savings entirely depleted.”
In my case, I don’t have kids, so I’m not the dad who gets to be home with his kids more than he used to be, but I can see that happening with some of my peers, for sure. But, my wife and I had a good relationship before all of this, and so being home together all the time has only made it better. We are also saving money because we haven’t really been able to travel or spend money on a lot of things. (Although my MacBook needing replaced did add some extra spending.) So, in some aspects regarding this research, I’m doing well, in others, not so much. Anxiety is pretty much a constant companion these days, and I am keenly aware that people I care about are not doing as well, and feeling that as well. That impacts my own well-being.
But, back to my point above. We can look at the overall statistics and say “oh look at the financial stress, and the rise in depression and anxiety” and assume that this is the reality for everyone. That a rise in anxiety or depression rates, or a rise in financial stress must equal to that being true across the board. As if a 10% increase means everyone is 10% more anxious. But that’s not how that works.
What we are really facing right now is that impacts are all over the place. I have mentioned before that I consider myself to be lucky, I worked from home before all of this, and my wife’s job is one where she has been able to transition to doing the same, and we’ve figured out how to make both of us working from home every day, work for us. So, financially, we’re not feeling a lot of new stress. We’ve also both managed to avoid contracting COVID-19, and the social distancing hasn’t had much of an impact in our physical health. On the other hand, we’ve lost some people we know to the virus, and we have friends who have recently lost loved ones for other reasons, or are struggling due to job losses or loved ones who are sick, etc. We are all dealing with an election that has turned into a fight over the rights of people we care about, and we are seeing the struggles of people we care about during this time in regards to racism and other forms of discrimination, and the struggles of people in our own state, and others, with natural disasters. Those emotional hits have been hard for us.. My happiness levels are down due to that. My anxiety takes multiple hits a day from the news or just what my friends are talking about.
When I compare my personal experience to the overall statistics, again I can see where it is also kind of all over the place, because it’s individual. In some ways, I’m doing pretty well, in others, not so much. None of us are exactly the same, or living with the same circumstances. So as global as this pandemic is, the effects have been incredibly diverse. That person you are working with on a Zoom call, the medical professional, the person taking your to-go order, that teacher your kid is learning from, or even those kids and their parents are all dealing with any multitude of impacts that we know nothing about, and probably never will. The one thing we do know, is that they are being impacted.
We would do well, as a society to take advantage of this very obvious opportunity to learn that we are all impacted in different way by events, and to take the time to listen to how someone who isn’t like us, is impacted. This is a great time to understand the large scale of the world and all of the different experiences within it. Maybe we could at least settle for understanding that our own individual situations, are not representative of everyone. Not even close, in fact.