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36% of Spaniards depleted their savings after just one month in lockdown

  El 36 % dels espanyols han consumit els seus estalvis durant un mes de confinament

Foto: Pixabay/Michal Jarmoluk

Anna Snchez-Jurez
An international study carried out by the UOC warns of the fears the pandemic has instilled in the Spanish population, and of the impact that these fears will have on the economy

63% of citizens expect 2021 to be worse than 2020

4 out of 10 Spaniards have stopped consuming cultural products

63% of people worry that their rights and freedoms will be permanently restricted

UOC spin-off Open Evidence has recently published the cumulative findings of an international study exploring the effects of COVID-19 in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. Coming on the back of an initial round of results, which focused on mental health and were made public at the end of May, the final report contains data on the socioeconomic affairs, future expectations and cognitive abilities of the citizens of these three nations. Among its main findings, the study has revealed that 36% of Spaniards depleted their savings after just one month in lockdown and that more than half are looking towards the future with a sense of foreboding and negativity. Specifically, 92% of Spaniards fear an economic depression, 63% expect 2021 to be worse than 2020 and another 63% worry that their rights and freedoms will be permanently restricted.

To gather the data required to make such claims, the researchers conducted three consecutive rounds of surveys on a single sample of individuals, aged 18 to 75 years, from Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. With a view to procuring answers from the same 1,000 people from each country for all three surveys, the researchers included 3,524 people from Spain, 3,545 people from Italy and 3,541 people from the United Kingdom in their sample for the first survey, which lasted from 24 April to 1 May. The second survey, conducted between 1 and 12 May, drew from a sample of 1,663 people from Spain, 1,659 people from Italy and 1,599 people from the United Kingdom. Taking place from 9 to 20 May, the third and final survey pared its sample down to 1,023 people from Spain, 1,039 people from Italy and 1,148 people from the United Kingdom. Results from the last two rounds of surveys have now been published, adding to the already published data from round one.

Data gathered in the third round of surveys suggest that the pandemic has altered the population's behaviour. In the socioeconomic sphere, the study has revealed that 36% of Spaniards depleted their savings after just one month of lockdown, 41% cut back on their consumption of cultural products and 58% scaled down on their networking activity, a vital part of career building and securing future employment prospects. Additionally, 23% of survey takers admitted to engaging in more risky behaviours, such as unprotected sex, poor adherence to medical treatments and excessive food and alcohol consumption, and to maintaining a less healthy lifestyle overall.

On top of that, according to Open Evidence co-founder and UOC Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences  professor, Francisco Lupiez, although the prevailing discourse initially claimed that COVID-19 would not distinguish between different members of society, societal inequalities have ultimately led some people to pay a higher price than others. He said: "Women especially have paid more, as they've shouldered an overwhelming amount of unpaid work. Other vulnerable groups include those living in more confined spaces and those with little savings."


Fear and the dangerous effect of uncertainty

Investing, buying a home, running or opening a new business... Financial ventures such as these mean betting on the future. But is society willing to make this bet while lockdown measures are still gradually being lifted? According to the researchers, the data are anything but encouraging. Results from the third round of surveys reveal that 63% of Spanish citizens believe 2021 will be worse than 2020.

Moreover, data from all three countries indicate that fear has crept its way into citizens' lives, leaving them with a paralysing sense of angst. In Spain, 92% of people foresee an economic depression, 63% fear that their rights and freedoms will be permanently restricted and 91% believe that it is just a matter of time until a second outbreak occurs.

Lupiez had this to say about the matter: "Individually, fear is tied to stress and impairs our capacity to reason, which can lead us to make more mistakes. [...] Lockdown jeopardizes our mental health, hampers our ability to make rational decisions and creates a discouraging climate marked by pessimistic expectations and widespread fears." Therefore, in order to prevent misguided choices and behaviours, the researcher believes that society needs to be rebooted and uncertainty, stomped out. "Governments need to restore confidence and hope among society," he concluded.


Mental health, still a cause for concern

Data from the study's third round of surveys show that gradually lifting lockdown measures is having an underwhelming impact on Spaniards' mental health. In fact, mental health is still a cause for concern. Compared to the results of the first round of surveys, as many as 3% more people have had feelings of depression or despair when looking towards the future. Only a few mental health indicators have seen a slight improvement, such as the fact that less people felt a lack of interest or pleasure when doing things (67%).


Reference report:

Estudio longitudinal sobre los efectos del COVID 19 y el confinamiento en Italia, Espaa y Reino Unido (3 olas) (Longitudinal study on the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom [3 rounds]). Open Evidence, 2020.


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Francisco Lupiez

Cofundador d'Open Evidence i professor dels Estudis de Cincies de la Informaci i la Comunicacio de la UOC.

Expert in: Cincies de la Informaci i la Comunicacio

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