Nav: Home

New Zealanders' attitudes changed after pandemic lockdown

June 04, 2020

In the first few weeks of the lockdown of New Zealand in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents reported a slight increase in mental distress but higher levels of confidence in the government, science and the police, as well as greater patriotism, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Our results suggest that, under the conditions of a strong and cohesive national response, people are more likely to lean on and trust their politicians, scientists, police and communities and ultimately more likely to comply with the lockdown and health guidelines," said Chris Sibley, PhD, a professor at the University of Auckland and lead author of the study published in the journal American Psychologist. "The absence of such a response, however, may provide fertile ground for division, lack of adherence to guidelines and conspiracy theories."

Sibley and his colleagues analyzed data from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, a 20-year longitudinal survey of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes of more than 60,000 New Zealanders. The study was in the process of collecting its latest wave of data when the country went into lockdown, and more than 1,100 of the participants answered the questions in the 18 days afterward.

Researchers compared those responses to the same number of people of similar demographic and lifestyle variables, such as age, gender, ethnicity, mental health diagnosis and smoking behavior, who responded before the lockdown.

"We found that people in the pandemic lockdown group reported higher trust in science, politicians and police and higher levels of patriotism, compared to the pre-lockdown group," said Sibley. "We also found that in the days following the lockdown, people also reported slightly higher levels of psychological distress."

In the pre-lockdown group, 77.1% of participants reported no distress, 16.2% reported moderate distress and 6.6% reported serious distress. In the post-lockdown group 73.5% reported no distress, 21.1% reported moderate distress and 5.8% reported serious distress.

"Countries around the world are implementing measures to fight COVID-19, and their efforts will be enhanced by understanding the psychological effects of the pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing," said Sibley. "In the case of New Zealand, a strong national response appeared to correspond with an increase in trust, not only for our governmental institutions, but also science, which may have helped with compliance to guidelines that helped us beat the virus."

The country only had a little more than 100 confirmed cases in late March when the government decided to go to level 4 of its COVID-19 threat system, the highest level, where only essential work and grocery store and medical trips were allowed. New Zealand currently has fewer than 1,200 confirmed cases and 22 deaths, with no new confirmed cases since May 22. Cafes, movie theaters and restaurants have already been allowed to reopen.

"We hope that as the dust settles and governments and their communities review this global event, these results, along with others reported by other researchers in other countries, will inform a plan for what to do in the event of the next global crisis," said Sibley. "For example, we should anticipate that well-being will deteriorate and build mechanisms to provide support for those most affected."
Article: "Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Nationwide Lockdown on Trust, Attitudes Towards Government, and Wellbeing," by Chris Sibley, PhD, Lara Greaves, PhD, Nicole Satherley, MSc, Nikola Overall, PhD, Carol Lee, MSc, Petar Milojev, PhD, Joseph Bulbulia, PhD, Danny Osborne, PhD, and Carla Houkamau, PhD, University of Auckland; Marc Wilson, PhD, and Taciano Milfont, PhD, Victoria University of Wellington; Raine Vickers-Jones, and Fiona Kate Barlow, PhD, University of Queensland; and Isabelle Duck, MB ChB, Silverdale Medical. American Psychologist, published online June 1, 2020.

Full text of the article can be found online at

Contact: Chris Sibley, PhD, can be reached by email at

American Psychological Association

Related Pandemic Articles:

Pandemic spawns 'infodemic' in scientific literature
The science community has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with such a flurry of research studies that it is hard for anyone to digest them all, underscoring a long-standing need to make scientific publication more accessible, transparent and accountable, two artificial intelligence experts assert in a data science journal.
Hoarding and herding during the COVID-19 pandemic
Understanding the psychology behind economic decision-making, and how and why a pandemic might trigger responses such as hoarding, is the focus of a new paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy.
Understanding the psychological aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic
Research at SMU to understand the psychological aspects of COVID-19 points to two main areas: message framing and emotion-regulation.
Corona pandemic: What dashboards do not show
How can the course of the corona pandemic and its effects be illustrated?
How effective does a COVID-19 vaccine need to be to stop the pandemic?
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, is committed to publishing the most robust, evidence-based research and commentary on COVID-19 as they unfold to keep readers up to date and aware of issues relevant to community and individual health during this continually evolving global outbreak.
Media's pivotal pandemic power
The mass media's coverage of the pandemic health crisis carries an important responsibility to offer balanced messaging about COVID-19 and public behaviour, Flinders University public health researchers says.
Food safety model may help pandemic management
No precedent exists for managing the COVID-19 pandemic - although a plan for working through major public food scares may point to the best ways of alerting and communicating with the public.
Prioritizing cancer care during pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced oncology clinicians and administrators in the United States to set priorities for cancer care because of resource constraints.
Food menu fit for pandemic times
In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, eating well in a sustainable way is more important now than ever, Flinders University experts say.
Post-pandemic brave new world of agriculture
Recent events have shown how vulnerable the meat processing industry is to COVID-19.
More Pandemic News and Pandemic Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at