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SCRUB COVID-19 findings Round 8: Australians are still complying but testing remains a challenge

SCRUB COVID-19 findings Round 8: Australians are still complying but testing remains a challenge

Heading in the right direction, but people are still taking risks

Things are looking up for Australia; cases are dropping, lockdowns are ending and restrictions are loosening. But what about the public response — how are individuals in communities around the country behaving? This is what the Survey of COVID-19 Responses to Understand Behaviour (SCRUB) project is investigating.

Written by Peter Slattery and Emily Grundy

Now in its eighth round of data collection, SCRUB aims to give policymakers actionable insights into public attitudes and behaviours relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following is a summary of key findings from data collected between 31 August to 4 September and funded by the Victorian Government. This representative sample comprises 1,003 Australians.

This article at a glimpse:

  • Australians are not becoming complacent
  • symptomatic people are still taking risks
  • Australians are worrying about economic recession but worrying less in general
  • mental health is generally good.

Australians are still generally following the rules

SCRUB data suggests that the majority of the population (81%) report often or always following the rules and regulations. Just 2% report rarely or never following the rules.

Figure 1. Self-rated compliance (31 August to 4 September).

Looking at a breakdown of compliance with specific protective behaviours, we see that most Australians are performing key protective behaviours (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Compliance with COVID-19 protective behaviours (31st August – 4th September).

Compliance with most protective behaviours has either stayed the same or increased, with the exception of staying at home, which dropped from 74% to 71%. This may be due to lowered restrictions in Victoria and people returning to work.

We also see a similar trend in intended behaviour. Participants generally indicated an intention to increase their key protective behaviours. Staying at home, was the only exception – this appears likely to drop from 71% to 68% compliance.

Figure 3. Intentions for future COVID-19 protective behaviours (31st August – 4th September).

What are symptomatic people doing?

SCRUB asks respondents whether they had experienced any cold- or flu-like symptoms in the past week and then asks follow-up questions for those who were symptomatic (see Figure 4).

Only 27% of people with symptoms reported getting tested. While this is far from ideal, it represents a significant improvement on the Round 7 findings, where only 15% of symptomatic people reported getting tested for COVID-19.

A fifth of this sub-sample (20%) did not get tested because they didn’t think they had COVID-19 and 10% had another medical condition that explained their symptoms.

The majority of symptomatic people (59%) reported staying at home except for any essential medical care. Worryingly, 36% spent time in a public place and 18% still attended work in person.

Figure 4. Actions that people took while experiencing cold- and flu-like symptoms (31st August – 4th September).

What are people doing while waiting to be tested?

We found that 13% of participants who had been tested did not stay at home while waiting for their results (see Figure 5).

Almost a fifth (19%) said that this was because they needed to care for family. More worryingly, 15% said that they didn’t know that they needed to and 8% said that they didn’t want to.

Figure 5. Reasons provided for not staying at home when awaiting test results (31st August – 4th September).

How are the worries of Australians changing?

We find that Australians are most worried about economic recessions, with 62% worrying a fair bit – to a lot – about this outcome.

Australians are also worried about society becoming more selfish (55%), small companies failing (54%), people they love dying (44%), the health system being overloaded (44%) and losing money (44%).

Figure 6. The worries of Australians (31st August – 4th September).

Comparing worries of Australians from Rounds 7 and 8 data collection suggests that people are starting to worry less about all of these issues. For instance, in Round 7, 3% more people were worrying a fair bit to a lot about economic recessions (65%), 5% were more worried about society becoming more selfish (60%), and 2% were more worried about small companies failing (56%).

The most notable changes was the difference in worry about the health system being overloaded, which has dropped by 7% (from 51% to 44%).

How is Australia’s mental health?

Despite their worries, we find that Australians generally have good mental health, with 77% reporting that they are in good to excellent mental health.

However, mental health has taken a dip overall — 30% of respondents report that they have much, or somewhat, worse mental health than before the pandemic.

Figure 7 (below). Australians’ mental health assessment (31st August – 4th September).

Learn more or get involved

SCRUB measures behaviour, behavioural drivers, COVID-19 attitudes and beliefs, and demographic variables, with outputs including:

  • an interactive dashboard of survey responses
  • open data for research academics to answer urgent behavioural research questions and to provide a resource for future pandemic preparedness.

The Australian chapter of SCRUB is being led by BehavioursWorks Australia. To learn more about the SCRUB survey, please visit the website and interactive dashboard.

You can access the survey and data here. You can also help the research team provide more policy-relevant snapshots of the COVID-19 pandemic by taking part in the survey here.

Please email peter.slattery@monash.edu if you would like to use the SCRUB survey to collect data in your country or state (voluntarily or funded), or want access to the data.

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