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The immediate and medium-term social and psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 in New Zealand

During the early stage of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response, MSD commissioned an in-house, rapid-review of national and international evidence, to answer three main questions:

  • what are the likely immediate and core social and psychosocial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis for the Aotearoa / New Zealand population during the initial lockdown period (Alert Level 4), and mitigations to these impacts?
  • what are the likely medium term social and psychosocial consequences of the crisis for the Aotearoa / New Zealand population?
  • what mitigation responses could reduce anticipated adverse social and psychosocial impacts for the Aotearoa / New Zealand population, whānau and communities?

The review was produced at speed so as to promptly contribute to the All of Government COVID-19 response.The report was prepared in consultation with and assistance from MSD’s Chief Science Advisor, MSD and Oranga Tamariki Research and Evaluation Teams, Mental Health and Addiction Directorate at Ministry of Health, Prime Minister's Special Representative on Cyber and Digital, Cyber Coordinator and other stakeholders across Government.

Key findings

The review identified four main themes summarising the expected social and psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 in the short to medium term, based on the evidence available at the time:

  • Social isolation and crowding may increase negative social and psychosocial outcomes.
  • COVID-19, and a predicted recession, may negatively impact mental health.
  • COVID-19 may elevate risk factors for family violence.
  • COVID-19 is likely to have negative impacts on child wellbeing and development.

The report further identified priority population groups who may be at higher risk of adverse social and psychosocial impacts, including: Māori, Pacific Peoples, refugees and migrants, health workers, essential workers, people with existing physical and mental health conditions, people with disabilities, older people, young people (18-25 years), children, and women. The report includes a summary of issues and potential mitigations for each priority group (see page 49).