New York City has quickly become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the US. We’ve all been affected by COVID-19, but New Yorkers have been hit especially hard. The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy just released its latest survey of 1,000 NYC residents regarding the impact of this pandemic on their lives, and the results indicate that loneliness, anxiety, and discontent towards the federal government are on the rise.
First and foremost, one of the most concerning findings is that 56% of NYC residents believe the federal government is not providing enough assistance for both the metropolitan area and the state as a whole. A meager 22% of respondents said they are happy with the support so far, and another 23% are unsure.
Survey participants were polled just a few days ago; March 27th-29th.
Besides frustration towards the powers that be, social distancing appears to be wearing many New Yorkers down as well. Just last week 22% of New Yorkers said they feel “not at all socially connected.” This week that percentage has nearly doubled to 43%. So, it’s very clear that loneliness is spreading perhaps just as quickly as the coronavirus itself in the five boroughs.
Similarly, many residents reported an uptick in mental health symptoms, with 44% feeling extra anxious, nervous, or on edge at least 3-4 days per week and 35% feeling more depressed or hopeless than usual.
Prior surveys had indicated that a surprising number of New Yorkers weren’t all that worried about their health in the face of the coronavirus. Perhaps predictably, as the amount of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city and state have skyrocketed, that’s beginning to change. More than half (55%) of respondents believe they are at a high or very high risk of developing COVID-19-related symptoms. Just last week only 39% said the same.
The survey also found that it’s becoming more and more common for NYC residents to personally know someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Last week that percentage was 14%, but today it has doubled to 28%. Moreover, one in eight respondents (12%) said they currently live with someone who is exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19. For whatever reason, more young New Yorkers (ages 18-29) reported living with a sick individual than any other age group (15.9%).
“We continue to see a generational divide in our tracking survey,” says Scott Ratzan MD, distinguished lecturer at CUNY SPH. “Younger New Yorkers believe they have a significantly higher chance of getting sick than their older counterparts, and this finding has been consistent for the last three weeks.”
“As older people are most likely to suffer serious health consequences from COVID-19, we would expect them to be the most concerned about their risk,” Dr. Ratzan explains. “It may be that our public health communication on risk and consequences of getting COVID-19 are not reaching older people adequately.”
NYC hospitals are becoming more packed as the days go on, and it was only a matter of time before other health services started to suffer. Over a third of respondents (35%) reported the cancellation of medical care services for other health issues because of the pandemic. On a related note, because of widespread job loss, 9% have recently lost access to health insurance.
Speaking of job loss, more and more NYC residents are finding themselves out of work. Last week 29% said someone in their household had lost a job due to the coronavirus, now that percentage has risen to 36%. As discussed in last week’s findings, the NYC Hispanic community is being hit particularly hard by unemployment, with 46% suffering a loss of income in their household. Households earning less money (less than $50,000) were found to be nearly twice as likely to report a loss of income than higher-earning households (over $100,000).
“It is clear that the economic burden of coronavirus is falling disproportionately on the people in our city who are least able to afford it,” comments Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of CUNY SPH. “It remains to be seen how well we can address these disparities.”
As people continue to lose their jobs, the next problem quickly appears: housing and rent concerns. More than two in five NYC residents (44%) are worried about their living arrangements and 27% flat out said they won’t be able to pay rent next month. Another 17% don’t think they’ll be able to pay their mortgage next month. Among those unable to pay rent, 59% are afraid that eviction is coming.
New York City has never been a cheap place to live, but all of these developments are causing many residents to consider moving; 33% are pondering leaving the city. Of that group, 12% said they would move elsewhere in New York state while 21% would move to a different state entirely.
The survey also noted that 62% of New Yorkers would take a vaccine for coronavirus ASAP if it were available, but 19% said they would refuse vaccination. Over half (56%) also said that asking New Yorkers who leave the state to self-quarantine for two weeks is a good idea.
There’s no way to sugarcoat these statistics. The coronavirus is causing unprecedented change, not just in New York, but all over the world. Once all of this is over, though, it’ll be up to all of us to find some positivity in the midst of all of this. Whether you live in Manhattan, Alaska, Tokyo, or Berlin — we’re all in this together.
The full survey can be found here. It is also published in the Journal of Health Communication.