Special Report

A Year in Review: 17 Non-Obvious Ways Life Has Changed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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1. Young people experiencing mental health issues

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of young adults who are experiencing high rates of major depressive symptoms, according to a 50-state COVID-19 survey of nearly 9,000 people ages 18 to 24. The first version of this survey, released in May, showed that depression was up 27% compared to historical levels. And according to the latest results, released in November, over 47% of young adults were “showing at least moderate depressive symptoms” in October 2020, the highest level since June.

More young people have thought of suicide than normal. In May 2020, over 32% of surveyed young adults said they had thought of suicide. In October, this figure increased to almost 37%.

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2. People smoking more

Tobacco use has been declining for years in the U.S., from about 42% of adults reporting a smoking habit in 1965 to less than 14% in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has threatened that progress as people either began smoking again or have just been smoking more. This is in part due to a combination of anxiety, boredom, and stress. And while unemployment has increased, adding to financial strain, people have been spending less on entertainment and travel. Combined with government benefits during the pandemic, some may have even been smoking more.

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3. Food stockpiling on the rise

Grocery shopping was one of few activities allowed during lockdowns across the country, and people used the activity to stock their pantries. During the first wave of the pandemic in the U.S. in March and April, consumers bought eggs, milk, pasta, rice, canned meat, frozen vegetables, disinfectants, and, of course, toilet paper, according to the coupon-tracking site Coupon Follow, which surveyed about 1,000 consumers for a report, “COVID-19 Preparation Spending Behavior.”

A recent survey by Inmar Intelligence, a marketing research firm, found that 57% of those surveyed planned to restock food and essential items ahead of the winter months.

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4. Telehealth substitutes doctor visits

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought telehealth — a service that provides health care remotely through telecommunication technologies — into a new light. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has called the increase in the use of telehealth “dramatic.” In April 2020, a little over 43% of Medicare primary care visits were conducted remotely, compared with 0.1% in February 2020.

Telehealth may be here to stay as it has proven to be very convenient, especially to medically vulnerable patients who are advised to stay home as much as possible due to the possibility of coming in contact with other sick people.

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5. Identity fraud impacting Gen Z the most

In addition to health and financial worries, there has been increased fraud activity since the pandemic struck. One in 10 adults say they have been a victim of identity theft since the onset of the pandemic, according to a survey of over 2,000 adults conducted by TransUnion, a consumer credit reporting agency.

Generation Z adults — those born 1995 or after — have been targeted by fraudsters the most, according to the survey. About 16% of them say they have been a victim of ID fraud, and 15% said they had a government account taken over by someone else, compared to 7% for all generations.

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