Covid-19 studies, Think-pieces, Uncategorized

SCRUB Round 10: Insights into Australians spending behaviour, mental health and access to services

Financial, emotional and physical wellbeing measures

Written by Emily Grundy and Peter Slattery.


With the Federal Government announcing the 2020-2021 Budget on 6 October, Australians have insight into the Government’s plan to “rebuild our economy, create jobs and secure Australia’s future”.


In the 10th round of data collection, our Survey of COVID-19 Responses to Understand Behaviour (SCRUB) project probed the financial experiences of Australians, how well people are complying with the rules, how they’re coping mentally and emotionally, and if they have access to appropriate services.


We also focused on financial questions about hardships, supporting the local economy, deferring obligations, current and anticipated spending patterns – and how COVID-19 affects it all.


The following is a summary of key findings from data collected between 12 to 16 October and funded by the Victorian Government. This representative sample comprises 983 Australians.


This article at a glimpse:



  • Most Australians are still doing key protective behaviours.

  • Over a third of respondents think that online spending on goods and services in the next six months will increase slightly or a lot.

  • Over half believe that spending on goods and services in person will stay the same.

  • The majority of the Australian sample believe that COVID-19 rules and regulations are easy to understand.

  • Most Australians still have good mental health.

  • Three-quarters of respondents have access to services that meet their needs.


Protective behaviours

Looking at a breakdown of compliance with specific protective behaviours, we see that most Australians are doing the right thing (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Compliance with COVID-19 protective behaviours (12 – 16 October).


Financial experiences of COVID-19

SCRUB also asked respondents, ‘How has the COVID-19 situation affected your household’s overall available income, savings, debt and spending over the past six months (March to now)?’ (Fig 2).

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Figure 2. Financial hardship experienced in the past six months.


About a third of respondents (32%) reported a decrease in their household income and only 11% reported that their income had increased.


The changes to savings were more balanced: 34% of respondents reported that their savings had decreased while 25% reported they had increased.


Obligations deferment

Australians were also asked whether they had deferred mortgage repayments, personal loans, or were receiving a rent reduction from their landlord.


A minority were taking a mortgage repayment holiday (6.1%), a personal loan repayment holiday (3.7%), or receiving rent reduction (3.7%).


Past spending

Around a fifth of respondents (22%) reported that their spending had increased slightly or a lot in the past six months, with over a quarter (28%) stating that it had decreased slightly or a lot.


The most common reasons for a decrease in spending were that people did not want to spend money that they might have needed later (46%) and that there were not as many opportunities to spend (41% – see Figure 3). People reported spending more to support the local (20%) and Australian (16%), economy and to cope with COVID-19 (17%).

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Figure 3. Reasons for change in spending in the past six months.


Future spending

SCRUB also explored how spending behaviours might change over the next six months (see Figure 4 – next column). Over a third of respondents (36%) thought that the number of goods and services they bought online would increase slightly or increase a lot.


Most thought that the frequency of buying goods and services in person would stay the same (55%) and the majority believed that money spent on holidays outside of Australia would decrease slightly or a lot (64%).

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Figure 4. Expected changes in spending.


How is Australia’s mental health?

We find that Australians generally have good mental health, with 74% reporting that they are in good, very good, or excellent mental health. 

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Figure 5. Australians’ mental health assessment.


Are the COVID-19 rules and regulations clear?

In Round 10, Australians were also asked whether the COVID-19 rules and regulations that currently apply to them are easy to understand. The majority thought so, with 71% agreeing or strongly agreeing (Figure 1).

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Figure 6. Clarity of rules and regulations.


Do Australians have access to appropriate services?

SCRUB respondents were also asked whether they had access to health, government, financial and community services to meet their needs (e.g., doctor, bank, Centrelink).


Three quarters said that they did, with 51% agreeing and 24% strongly agreeing. Only 7% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Learn more or get involved

SCRUB measures behaviour, behavioural drivers, COVID-19 attitudes and beliefs as well as demographic variables. Outputs include:



  • 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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