Health of the nation: We’re anxious, depressed insomniacs

As South Africans we’re suffering from anxiety, insomnia and depression. Plus we’re overeating and under-exercising. Apart from that, though, we’re absolutely fine. Thank you.

A study published by market research company Ipsos says these are all problems arising from the pandemic and lockdown.

And to top off this less-than-rosy picture, it seems that the image we have of ourselves as tough, no-nonsense, take-it-on-the-chin South Africans isn’t quite true either. Because, compared to much of the world, we’re actually faring notably worse than they are.

In fact, we’re whining even more than the Brits, which is surely a concern? Or perhaps South Africans are just more willing to tell the truth to market researchers?

Probing questions as to how we have been impacted

The question asked of us, in an online poll conducted from 7-10 May, was: “Are you suffering from any of the following as a result of Covid-19?”

Respondents were then given the following list to respond to: insomnia; anxiety; depression; migraines; overeating; undereating; increased smoking; over-exercising; under-exercising; increased alcohol use; and decreased alcohol use. People also had the option to answer ‘none of these’ or ‘prefer not to answer’.

“Only three in every ten online South Africans (30%) indicated that they do not suffer from any of the listed conditions,” says Ipsos. “Males were slightly less open to answering the question than females were.”

Nearly a third of us are experiencing anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, an average of 31% of South Africans said they were experiencing symptoms. Twenty-five percent of us said we were battling insomnia and 20% of South Africans have been struggling with depression.

It also turns out that we are overeating – 29% of us said ‘yes’ to this condition. The same percentage said ‘yes’ to under-exercising.

Our anxiety levels are the third highest of all the 16 countries included in the study. We were beaten only by Brazil (a mammoth 41%), Mexico (35%) and Russia (32%).

When it comes to insomnia, we’re also up there with the worst nations. Only Mexico (a whopping (38%) and Brazil (26%) are more sleep-stressed. Spain and South Africa tied at 25%.

Globally the big worry is lack of exercise

The biggest worry around the world, though, is lack of exercise. “About one-third of the respondents in 10 countries say they are under-exercising because of COVID-19, with this sentiment highest in Japan (38%), South Korea (37%), Italy (33%), China (31%), Mexico and Russia (30%),” says Ipsos. South Africa comes in at 29%.

“With unlimited exercise hours commencing on June [in South Africa], one can assume that less people will complain about insufficient exercise. But the Level 3 regulations will not make a difference to those suffering from anxiety, overeating, insomnia and depression. Interpreting the table above, women clearly feel that they are suffering more from these conditions than men are,” Ipsos notes.

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