75% of New Yorkers don’t expect life to go back to normal for at least another 2 months

The last of the seven stages of grief is acceptance and hope. Well, according to the latest survey of New Yorkers conducted by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, many NY residents have at least moved on to the acceptance stage. The reality of the pandemic seems to have set in, with a full 75% of respondents admitting they don’t expect their life to be back to normal for at least another two months if not longer.

A total of 1,000 NYC residents were surveyed, as well as 1,000 NY state residents (NYC, Long Island, Upstate). The research was conducted just a few days ago (April 3rd-5th).

Among only survey participants living in the five boroughs, a quarter (25%) are optimistic that life may be back to normal in less than a month, 27% anticipate two more months of quarantine, 20% foresee three months of lockdown, and 28% predict more than four months’ of this pandemic.

It’s become impossible for New Yorkers to ignore what’s happening around them, especially considering that close to half of NYC residents (43%) now know someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Just last week that percentage was 30%. Somewhat surprisingly, less NYC citizens (48%) believe they are at a high risk of personally contracting the virus in comparison to last week (58%). Although that may have something to do with more people practicing self-isolation and social distancing. 

Long Islanders seem to be the most concerned about infections. A whopping 64% of LI respondents said they have a high or very high risk of becoming ill. Meanwhile, Upstate New York is a bit more spread out in terms of living space, so it makes a certain degree of sense that respondents from that area reported a lower perceived risk of infection (40%) than other NY areas.

Additionally, one in eight people living in NYC is already caring for a family member who is sick at home. Close to one in five Long Islanders said the same, while only 5% of Upstate New Yorkers have a sick loved one at home. 

The unavoidable that people are going to be more depressed and worried than usual during this pandemic. Interestingly, though, the survey found that most New Yorkers are more worried about their loved ones than themselves, the economy, or the temporary loss of social life. In all, 40% of NYC participants said they’re mainly worried about their loved ones. Only 18% are primarily worried about themselves and even smaller percentages are concerned about prolonged isolation (15%) or job loss (13%).

“We have read numerous accounts of individual accountability, courage, and even creativity during this difficult time,” says Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of CUNY SPH. “These findings bear this out. The biggest concern New Yorkers report is not for their own health and safety, their employment or their own isolation, but overwhelmingly for the safety and well-being of their family members and others who are close to them.”

There’s been lots of debate lately about the effectiveness of face masks right now. For what it’s worth, over 75% of New Yorkers believe wearing a mask while outside is a good idea.

Unfortunately, while many survey participants have accepted the situation we’re all in, hope still isn’t a commodity that’s easily found right now. More than half (60%) of New Yorkers aren’t hopeful for the future. If we break down those findings depending on ethnicity, Asians are feeling particularly hopeless these days (68%), followed by Caucasians (64%), Lantix/Hispanics (59%), and African-Americans (51%).

“The percentage of New Yorkers who expressed serious mental stress remained consistently high over the past two weeks,” comments Dr. Scott Ratzan, distinguished lecturer at CUNY SPH. “As a number of federal and state officials have said that the current week will be a particularly difficult one, it will be important to be vigilant in observing and responding to the community’s level of anxiety, depression, and despair.”

Another fascinating survey finding was that while older New Yorkers are more likely to feel socially isolated, it’s 18-29-year-olds most likely to feel anxious, hopeless, or depressed. Perhaps older adults are a bit more emotionally equipped to deal with the stress we’re all feeling.

On a positive note, 50% of respondents believe they’ve started eating healthier during this ordeal, a likely side effect of being forced to cook at home. Beyond that, though, the findings regarding food are less than encouraging. An almost unbelievable 85% said that it’s been harder to find food than usual. 

What about employment statistics? Overall job loss among New Yorkers held steady at 35% (in comparison to 36% last week). That being said, it appears that full-time workers are starting to be impacted more; only 38% of respondents are still employed on a full-time basis right now. Four weeks ago that statistic was 47%.

It’s challenging, but we should try and focus on the silver linings hidden in these results. Acceptance is an important step in the long climb towards beating this virus. Also, the finding that most New Yorkers are taking a selfless approach during these hard times is a great sign. This week has been projected to be especially difficult for the United States. Here’s hoping the Empire State can come together and support each other during what promises to be a trying next few days.

The full survey can be found here. It is also published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives.