Has New Zealand become an angry nation?
It's a strange question, but it's becoming difficult to overlook the evidence suggesting that this might be the case.
Some of the biggest headlines in the last fortnight have included a police officer being knocked out on duty, a racially motivated attack on a father at a North Shore supermarket, and racist abuse aimed at an off-duty cop.
The month of May saw 109 gun crimes reported in Auckland, there's been a 400 per cent rise in ram raids and we've also seen a string of random knife attacks.
These events may be on the extreme end of the spectrum of anti-social behaviour, but there are also smaller examples of this playing out across society.
Signs now hang regularly in restaurants and hospitals imploring visitors to be kind to staff – a request that would have seemed utterly unnecessary in New Zealand only a few years back.
Supermarket shoppers also now get into screaming matches about whether they should or shouldn't be wearing masks.
This all points to a simmering anger that makes our interactions feel a little tenser than they once did.
New Zealand isn't alone in dealing with this issue. Over the weekend, a man was killed in a racist attack in Italy and the US has seen a massive surge in airline rage incidents.
Organisational psychologist John Eatwell tells the Front Page podcast it isn't surprising to see an increase in displays of rage in the aftermath of the Covid-19 restrictions, which placed enormous stress on people around the world, including New Zealanders.
Eatwell explains that prolonged periods of stress have a biological effect, that actually makes us more sensitive to stress the longer we stay in that state.
"If you've been through a stressful time, you end up with more receptors for stress effectively," he says.
"After the tough time we've been through, it's going to take something to actually start to reverse that."
While Covid restrictions on society have subsided, new stresses such as inflation, declining house prices and concern about a recession have emerged to heap further pressure on New Zealanders at a vulnerable time.
"All these things play on people's minds, even though they may not think they do. They sort of wear away at the back of your mind and ultimately that impacts your resources to deal with situations. So, people end up losing it, where they would've been able to retain control before.
"The second cognitive function to drop when you are under pressure and fatigued is your control – and then the emotional part of your brain starts to take over."
The ongoing stress when combined with the impact of the pandemic has also likely contributed to a decline in trust across society, says Eatwell.
"Research into trust shows that when you have less trust, you get more violence, higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and a whole range of negative health outcomes."
Income disparity, explains Eatwell, is one of the biggest factors contributing to a decline in trust in a country.
Economic studies now show that the pandemic worsened inequality in New Zealand, largely driven by rising house prices and high inflation.
"For the first time in probably 15 years, people's disposable income is decreasing quite rapidly – people are feeling the pinch. And that leads to lower levels of trust between the haves and have-nots," says Eatwell.
With society so emotionally charged after this period of prolonged stress, feelings of anger toward the Government are also rising, despite the fact that New Zealand's Covid response was applauded around the world. It also comes despite the fact that most of the societal restrictions have already been dissolved.
"People don't remember what you said or what you did, they remember how you made them feel," says Eatwell.
"That emotion is far more resistant to logic or situations changing… That emotional anger about the mandates will remain for quite a long time – especially in situations where they aren't acknowledged… Unless we acknowledge it, it won't dissipate."
His comments do ring true when viewed in the context of the Parliament protest and Brian Tamaki's more recent disruption of traffic across Auckland. The risk is that if that strong emotional response isn't addressed, the vacuum will be filled by those who see an opportunity in it.
Charismatic figures like Brian Tamaki and Leo Molloy have shown a willingness to harness that anger to get people to listen to them.
"When people are in that emotional state and they have a grievance, they're looking for somebody to follow," says Eatwell.
"Those situations breed unique leaders who are basically prepared to acknowledge the emotions out there and say they can change them."
This isn't to say things need to stay like this. Eatwell says there are steps that both the Government and ordinary people can take to slowly ease the pressure squeezing society at the moment.
"I think there does need to be an acknowledgement of the anger rather than just putting it down to misinformation. We need to engage with all parts of society if we want them to be on board," says Eatwell.
"And I think the other part is that at a company or public sector level, we could be acknowledging much more that the current situation is hard with the residual impacts of lockdowns, Covid and house prices. People need to be supported by their leaders.
"There's a ripple effect to this. Research on both kindness and uncivil acts shows that if I do a small act of kindness to you, you're much more likely to be kind to the next person. Likewise, if I'm angry with you, you're also much more likely to be angry with the next person you see."
This change certainly won't happen overnight, but the onus of dissipating that anger can't lie solely with the Government.
• The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.