Polls: Pandemic Affected Nebraskan Mental Health, Finances, and Consumption


LINCOLN, Neb. – Residents across the state felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their physical health, mental health, work, and consumption habits over the past year, according to the 2021 Nebraska Rural. the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Metro Surveys.

The majority of Nebraskans surveyed, 61%, said the pandemic had quite or very badly affected life overall. Survey results suggest that some of these health, wellbeing and financial effects were perceived differently across populations, regions, and between rural and urban communities.

Across the state, in both rural and urban communities, about a quarter of respondents (25% in rural areas and 23% in metropolitan areas) said someone in their household was infected with COVID-19. Eighteen percent of rural respondents said friends or family in their community had died from COVID-19, compared with 13 percent of those in large cities.

“With the rural population historically older and COVID hitting older adults more heavily at first, it’s not surprising that this shows up as a difference in the survey,” said Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, associate professor and expansion specialist in Nebraska.

The pandemic weighed on several quality of life factors. Most respondents in both metropolitan and rural areas said their socialization with others was disrupted by COVID-19 (84% in metropolitan areas, 68% in rural areas). Fifty-one percent of those in large cities and 40% of those in the countryside said their mental health was compromised. In the northeast region, 46% of residents said their mental health was compromised, compared with around a third in the southeast and north-central regions.


Nationwide, the pandemic appeared to hit those on the lowest incomes hardest. About four in ten respondents with household incomes below $ 40,000 said their financial health was affected by the pandemic, compared with 20% of those with incomes of $ 100,000 or more in rural areas or $ 75,000 or more more in metropolitan areas. Respondents in both the Panhandle and Northeast regions were more likely than those in other regions to say that their financial health was at least significantly affected.

Respondents from rural areas who work in production, transport or warehousing appeared to be economically hardest hit by the pandemic. These respondents were most likely to report that someone in their household had been made redundant, had reduced their working hours or was returning to work after being temporarily laid off.

“That reflects national trends,” said Burkhart-Kriesel. “It also agrees with the survey results, which show that those on lower incomes were more financially affected by the pandemic. Production, transport and warehousing can be entry-level positions at the lower end of the salary scale. “

Participants were asked if the internet service was affecting their ability to work, study, socialize, or attend school during the pandemic. Fewer than one in ten in both rural and metropolitan areas said they were restricted by Internet service at home.

Many Nebraskans reported that they adopted new consumer behavior during the pandemic, such as:

“Many respondents also report that they are likely to continue this behavior in the future,” said Becky Vogt, manager of the Rural Poll. “Companies that continue to adapt and offer these new delivery methods will meet these requirements in the future.”


Steve Schulz, associate professor of supply chain management at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said these changes have had a dramatic impact on the state’s supply chains in the future. “

That year, 1,568 rural Nebraskans participated in the Nebraska Rural Poll (a response rate of 26%) and 1,305 urban residents participated in the Nebraska Metro Poll (a response rate of 21%). The polls asked participants about their experience with the pandemic, their health and well-being, their views about their community, and trust in institutions and media.

The Nebraska Rural Poll, now in its 26th year, is sent annually to 7,000 households in rural communities across the state. In 2021, an additional 7,000 polls were distributed to metropolitan Nebraskans to capture experiences and perceptions across the state.

The Rural Poll is the largest annual poll that measures rural Nebraskans’ perception of politics and quality of life. The margin of error for the rural survey is plus or minus 2%; the error rate for the Metro survey is plus-or-minus 3%. Full results are available at https://ruralpoll.unl.edu. The university’s Department of Agricultural Economics is conducting the survey with funding from Rural Prosperity Nebraska and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The University of Nebraska Omaha Nebraska Business Development Center provided funding to expand the survey to the metropolitan areas of Omaha and Lincoln.

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