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Survey Says: Pandemic Stress Is Affecting Coloradans' Mental Health

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Results from a new survey show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting life for Coloradans. Questions ranged from mental health, support for stay at home measures, and how confident people are in local, state and federal leadership during the crisis.

KUNC’s Rae Solomon joined Colorado Edition to sort through those survey results.

Interview Highlights:

These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Who conducted the survey, and how many people did they reach out to?

Healthier Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation commissioned the survey. A polling company called Magellan Strategies conducted it. They spoke to 1,000 Coloradans, with an over-sample of 140 African Americans. A broad spectrum of the state was surveyed, in terms of political affiliations, gender, age, income level and so on.

Let’s talk through some of the key takeaways from the survey, starting with mental health. What did we learn about the impacts coronavirus has had on mental health in our state?

A majority of Coloradans report that this pandemic has had a negative effect on their mental health. A lot of people have lost jobs, or at least part of their income. They’re worried about being able to pay for necessities like housing, food and medicine.

The survey results also included some answers in respondent’s own words, which make for powerful statements. For instance, an El Paso man said, “I’m extremely agitated because I am trapped in my house.” That’s a sentiment a lot of can relate to right now.

A woman from Arapahoe County talked about how she was pregnant and said that, “It has been really depressing.” People feel isolated and alone, and they were worried about their health and their loved ones.

There were also questions about how Coloradans feel about leadership, and the safer at home order - specifically local vs. federal. What did they find?

At least 60% of people said their local leadership was doing either a good or excellent job in their response to the pandemic – that’s for local school districts, local and state governments. Now, when you talk about the federal government response, those numbers are flipped. 60% of people said the federal government’s pandemic leadership was only fair or poor.

I understand Coloradans also expressed concern for paying for necessities – rent or mortgage, healthcare, and utilities.

Yes. The pollsters were able to compare numbers from before the crisis began to what people were saying just a few weeks ago in mid-April. ... And there was a 16% increase in the people who said they were having trouble paying for those necessities compared to before the pandemic.

There was also concern over specific programs – including help for the homeless population. What can you tell us about that?

One of the most striking results of this survey is that 81% of people said that they were concerned there was not enough help available for people experiencing homelessness or struggling to make rent. That’s a much higher percentage than people who said they’re having a difficult time paying for necessities themselves. So there’s awareness that life has gotten harder for folks facing housing insecurity and seemingly a lot of empathy there.

One of the most interesting questions, I thought, was asking Coloradans if they thought coronavirus would change life, the way we work and socialize, for good, or if they thought life would just return to the way it was. What do the results show?

A majority of Coloradans – just about two thirds – said they think coronavirus will having lasting changes on the way we live, work and socialize. Just 28% predicted that life will go back to how it was.

Are the results of this survey going to change policy priorities for Colorados’ lawmakers? Will this survey have an impact?

People hope that it will change policy. They seemed to think that the pandemic should be a catalyst for extending more help for people in need, even after this crisis passes.

Jake Williams, the executive director of healthier Colorado, said “ Coloradans overwhelmingly feel the government should do more to make healthcare more affordable, support individuals who cannot afford food and housing and provide sick and family leave .”

The group is planning to run some more polling later this year, so we’ll get to see how people’s views are changing as the pandemic progresses.

This conversation is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for April 30th. You can find the full episode here .

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As newscast reporter I keep Northern Coloradans up to date on all the things they need to know NOW. Whatever’s floating through the zeitgeist at the moment, I’m on it.
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