In April 2020, the Social Research Centre on behalf of the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods collected the first wave of data as part of the centre’s COVID-19 Impact Monitoring Series. Since that first wave of data collection, surveys have been undertaken a further 10 times, with the most recent wave of data collection undertaken in April 2022. Surveys have also been conducted with the same group of respondents just prior to COVID-19 in January and February 2020. This paper uses this data to consider what was the impact of the first two years of COVID-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, how did these impacts vary across key population sub-groups, and who is still experiencing the costs and consequences of the pandemic and associated policy responses.
A significant proportion of Australians experienced lower levels of wellbeing, higher levels of psychological distress, long periods of loneliness and social isolation, fewer hours worked, and a drop in income during the pandemic. There were, however, large increases in social cohesion early in the pandemic, and values in April 2022 that are still well above those prior to the pandemic. Young Australians, those with low education, low-income Australians, and those who live in Victoria have been impacted the most by the pandemic.