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Aussies’ fear of getting Covid is rising, according to study tracking wellbeing during the pandemic

Two-in-five Australians think they’ll likely get Covid, according to a new survey, as the number of people reporting “severe” psychological stress has dramatically jumped.

Australian National University researchers surveyed almost 3500 adults and found 40 per cent believe they are likely or very likely to contract Covid in the next six months.

Those who had been vaccinated were more likely to think they would be infected than those who hadn’t, implying that they expected vaccination could reduce hospitalisation and death, while still leaving people exposed to mild cases.

The fears of infection were four times higher than they were in April, lead study author Nicholas Biddle said.


“In April 2021, around one in 10 Australians, 10.7 per cent, were worried they would get infected by Covid-19,” Professor Biddle said.

“Now, 40 per cent of us think the same.

“This is a huge jump and shows that even though the vast majority of adult Australians are getting vaccinated against Covid-19, many of us think it is inevitable we will get the disease at some point in time, especially as the country opens up more and more.”

Camera IconTwo in five think they are likely or very likely to contract Covid in the next six months, the study found. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Those aged 35 to 44 were the group who most thought they would be infected.


More than half – 53.8 per cent – said they were likely or very likely to contract Covid.

This was followed by those aged 45 to 54, with 43.1 per cent saying they were likely or very likely to contract the illness.

Meanwhile, the study showed a worrying trend, with a jump in the number of people saying they were experiencing “severe” psychological stress, despite life satisfaction being on the rise.

In October, 12.5 per cent of Australians said they were suffering severe mental stress, compared to a previous high of 10.6 per cent in April 2020.


“We’ve been tracking the impact of Covid-19 across Australian society for almost two years now,” Professor Biddle said.

“This is the highest level of severe psychological distress we’ve seen yet.”

Camera IconMore people said they felt ‘severe’ psychological stress. Newswire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

However, fewer Australians reported feeling major financial stress and the study also found household incomes were continuing to rise.

“It would appear that how much Australians are earning each week is less of a pressure than what it was in the middle of the pandemic and lockdowns,” study co-author Professor Matthew Gray said.

In terms of the recovery from the pandemic, 54.6 per cent of thought the worst was behind us while the remaining 45.4 per cent thought it was still to come.

Australians proved more optimistic than Americans, with 45 per cent of Americans saying the worst of the pandemic was behind them and 54 per cent saying the worst was yet to come.

Most Australians also thought the federal government, Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader had done a “fair” or “poor” job, but the public service, state/territory governments, and hospitals/the health system had done a “good” or “excellent” job.

The analysis is part of Australia‘s largest and longest running longitudinal study on the impact of the pandemic across the country, led by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods.

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