Many Kiwis say they're still grappling with the economic and emotional toll of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite New Zealand's stand-out success at keeping coronavirus at bay.
New survey findings suggest that Covid-19's hit on the economy likely worsened New Zealand's mental health crisis, while also fuelling a "K-shaped" recovery that's led to growing inequality.
Shortly after last year's nationwide lockdown, Massey University researchers oversaw a Qualtrics survey of nearly 1100 adults to find one in three had lost income.
About 14 per cent had filed for unemployment benefits and a similar proportion said they'd lost a job.
In a follow-up survey, carried out over February and March, about 12 per cent were found to have filed for benefits in the previous two months, while 11 per cent had lost a job.
"The proportion of population who said they have lost income has sharply reduced from 33 per cent to 20 per cent, which is still a high number given a year of successful Covid-19 elimination strategy and economic recovery," said Massey lecturer Dr Jagadish Thaker, who compiled the data.
Generally, the figures aligned with a recent Ministry of Social Development report showing that 11.7 per cent of the working-age population are on a main benefit in March this year, compared with 10.1 per cent in March 2020.
It also showed the number of people on job seeker support alone had risen from about 150,000 in March 2020 to more than 200,000 - or 6.4 per cent of the working age population - over the year.
Thaker said the new data pointed to a disproportionate impact on Māori, Pasifika, and Asians.
"They are two to three times more likely to have lost a job and filed for employment benefits compared to European New Zealanders," he said.
"Women and young people are also more likely to report facing mental health issues compared to men and older-age groups, respectively."
"While there is some positive news of economic recovery, the rising tide is not lifting all boats—the rise even risks leaving behind indigenous and ethnic minorities."
Compounding economic worries, he said, was the country's pre-existing mental health crisis.
"About half of New Zealanders say they continue to face mental health issues such as having trouble sleeping and 40 per cent continue to say they feel depressed in both July 2020 and March 2021 surveys."
Again, Māori, Pasifika, and Asians reported higher depression compared with Pākehā.
Thaker noted that another recent survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, showed about a quarter of Kiwis currently had poor levels of mental and emotional wellbeing.
"Our survey results suggest that the Government policies on economic recovery and on tackling enduring mental health crisis have not been sufficient with the scale of the problem," he said.
"The Covid-19 economic impact has probably compounded the mental health crisis, particularly among minorities."
The Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission's assessment, released in March, also pointed to a raft of areas requiring urgent action.
It found people in the community and on the frontline were concerned at the lack of a visible plan and worried Government investment was ad hoc, too slow, and not targeted in the right places.
The Government had already taken steps toward tackling the crisis, such as replacing the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act, expanding access to primary mental health and addiction support, and developing a national suicide prevention strategy.
Its Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing plan, Kia Kaha, Kia Māia, Kia Ora Aotearoa, was unveiled last year.
The Ministry of Health has compiled a list of resources for people suffering poor mental health amid the pandemic, which can be found here.