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The ups and downs of South Australians during COVID-19


Having tracked the minds and moods of South Australians since 2013, the Square Holes monthly survey has never recorded fluctuations like those seen since March.

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Square Holes has been tracking the financial and mental state of mind of South Australians through a representative survey of 400 adults each month to chart the massive impact of COVID-19.

Jason Dunstone, founder and managing director of Square Holes, said their latest results collected in late July to early August find consumer confidence starting to weaken as concerns of second waves in Melbourne and elsewhere grew.

“While significantly better than the record confidence low in March, the last two months have seen consecutive declines in confidence amongst South Australian adults,” Dunstone said.

Similarly, confidence compared to one month ago, has also declined, to levels below those recorded since April.

Confidence in the next 12 months is lowest for 50-64 year olds, with confidence compared with last month lowest among those aged over 65.

Financial security in 12 months time is also weaker in the latest survey compared with the last two months.

“While half believe their financial security in around 12 months will be about the same, there is clearly strongest financial optimism amongst younger South Australians and pessimism amongst older South Australians,” Dunstone said.

“This has has been illustrated in previous mind and mood surveys as well.”

Dunstone said there was some indication of some respondents feeling better about their financial security compared with 12 months ago.

There are increasing levels of ‘better’ over the past two months – 20 per cent in May, 22 per cent in June and 24 per cent in July –  balanced by a rise in those feeling worse – 29 per cent May, 31 per cent June and 32 per cent July.

Dunstone said that, similar to future financial security in 12 months, older South Australians are more likely to be feeling worse than 12 months ago, and younger South Australians are feeling financially more secure.

According to the survey, 53 per cent of respondents say their mental health and wellbeing is about the same as 12 months ago.

“Yet the latest survey recorded a significant rise in those saying their mental health and wellbeing is worse than 12 months ago,” Dunstone said.

“Interestingly, while younger South Australians are overall feeling more financially buoyant compared to older age groups, there has been indication across the mind and mood survey that younger South Australians are finding 2020 more psychologically challenging,” Dunstone said.

“For example, younger South Australians recorded higher levels of feeling ‘tired for no good reason,’ ‘that everything was an effort,’ and ‘nervous most of the time or all of the time’.

“Perhaps the spending optimism is to compensate for such psychological sensitivity,” Dunstone said.

“March and April were challenging months for many and May was viewed as exiting a very scary and uncertain predicament, even an emotional celebration,” Dunstone said.

“Yet there are now signs that many are beginning to feel nervous financially and psychologically.

“Let’s hope our neighbours in Victoria and elsewhere see a speedy flattening of their curves for their own health and wellbeing and for the confidence and optimism of South Australians.”

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