Objectives: This study was conducted to describe how population-level subjective well-being (SWB) evolved throughout the pandemic. Study design: Thirty waves of panel data representative of the Austrian population aged ≥14 years were collected between March 2020 and March 2022. Participants were quota sampled from a pre-existing online panel based on key demographics closely mirroring the Austrian resident population. Methods: We present wave-specific means of SWB throughout 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic next to the evolution of the pandemic (cases and deaths) and stringency of lockdown measures in Austria as well as estimate their bivariate correlations. Results: The analysed sample consisted of 3,293 participants contributing to a total of 46,168 observations. All components of SWB – negative affect, positive affect and life satisfaction – showed population-level fluctuation between March 2020 and March 2022. The magnitude of these changes was small. Population-level SWB correlated with the incidence rate of COVID-19 deaths (negative affect: r = 0.69, positive affect: r = −0.70, life satisfaction: r = −0.47), the Stringency Index (negative affect = 0.50, positive affect = −0.47, life satisfaction = −0.47) and less so with the incidence of COVID-19 cases (negative affect = 0.43, positive affect = −0.31, life satisfaction = −0.38). Conclusions: Population-level SWB fluctuated in accordance with rises and falls in COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as with the stringency of lockdown measures. This connection suggests that incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as public health measures to contain the pandemic affect population-level SWB and could thereby impact population health and productivity.


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Oberndorfer, M., Stolz, E. & Dorner, T. 2022, 'Evidence for changes in population-level subjective well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic from 30 waves of representative panel data collected in Austria between March 2020 and March 2022', Public Health, 212, pp. 84-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2022.09.004

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Last updated: 24 October 2022
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