Coronavirus (COVID-19) and society: what matters to people in Scotland?

Findings from an open free text survey taken to understand in greater detail how the pandemic has changed Scotland.

1. Personal Impact

The pandemic has had ongoing impacts on individual and community wellbeing and these impacts have been unevenly felt for different people and places.[4] [5] This section describes how people were feeling at this point in the pandemic (January/February 2022) and their feelings about the year ahead. Respondents were given the opportunity to freely describe how they felt.

Figure 1 categorises some of the most prominent emotional attitudes alongside a brief description. However, whilst the emotions have been separated into categories, respondents commonly gave a mixture of emotions. For example, feeling fed up and worried, yet still hopeful that the worst of the pandemic may have passed.

Figure 1: Prominent emotions

Fed up

  • Fed up, tired, overwhelmed


  • Angry and/or critical of the handling of the pandemic


  • Continued anxiety and worry about COVID-19


  • Impacted by negative experiences during the pandemic


  • Feeling more tolerant and willing to accept the situation


  • Feeling positive, with optimism that things would continue to improve

Fed up

Respondents described feeling fed up, exhausted and overwhelmed at this point in the pandemic.

“I feel tired. It's been a long two years.” (Male, 55-64)

For many, this was linked to the duration of the pandemic and feeling that life had been kept on hold for the past two years. Others described exhaustion but that was balanced with an understanding of the need for a continued response to COVID-19.

“Life in a holding pattern. Having made routines with masks, hand washing, social distancing, not attending large events, barely any travel it is boring and isolating.” (Female, 55-64)

Respondents referred to the uncertainty that the pandemic has created, impacting on the ability to plan ahead.

“I see another year stretching out in front of me with rules and restrictions making life harder and more difficult. There is little to look forward to. Also making plans or booking things is unappealing due to restrictions and the possibility of restrictions being tightened or changed last minute or with little warning.” (Female, 35-44)

There was an expressed need for clarity about what the future may entail.

“Fed up with it all. I actually don’t mind the restrictions but we need to know what the new normal looks like and soon. I have always stuck to every rule but I’m not sure I can continue to do so if they are to continue for another year.” (Male, 35-44)


Feelings of anger and criticism were directed towards the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic. Respondents felt that measures had been unnecessary or ineffective and that restrictions such as lockdowns, or measures in schools, had caused greater societal harm than the threat posed by the virus.

“Angry that you are still putting restrictions on children. Still masking kids in school - and perpetuating a culture of fear and anxiety…” (Female, 45-54)

At the extreme, some were angry as they believed that the pandemic was a hoax. Others criticised what they perceived as politicised decision making and decision making that was not based on science or ‘cherry picking’ science.

“Appalled at the continued use of restrictions which are unsupported by any robust evidence. Appalled at the suggestion that the Scottish Government think it is appropriate to retain indefinitely what are emergency powers.” (Female, 65-69).

Anger towards the Scottish Government also came from those who felt that restrictions were being eased too soon. They raised concerns about changes to testing, removal of working from home advice, and a lack of risk mitigation strategies such as ventilation.

“I feel scared, angry, disappointed and unsure of the future. I feel worn down by the need for constant vigilance. I feel exhausted by the lack of response from the people in power to change things significantly for the better. Especially since I and many of my friends and family are higher risk. It feels like we have been forgotten about and sacrificed for the sake of normality for the rest of the population. We are stuck in constant isolation where those in the populace brag about going to football games or dining indoors. We don't have the luxury or the freedom to do these things. We may never be able to again unless things change.” (Female, 35-44)

On the other hand, it was suggested that the measures were kept in place as a way for the Scottish Government to exert control. There was a sense of mistrust that the pre-pandemic way of living would not return.

“Completely over it, I want to see an immediate end to all measures as they're not required anymore and are an overreach in terms of power and control.” (Male, 35-44)

Respondents were also angry with the approach taken by the UK Government and the implications it has for Scotland.

“I have felt an underlying sense of anxiety or unease, particularly when Scotland’s prudent measures have been undermined by the somewhat more cavalier attitude of the Westminster Government” (Male, 55-64)

A significant degree of anger was related to wider events occurring at the time of this consultation. This was a period of media coverage on the launch of a police investigation into potential breaches of lockdown measures at Downing Street.[6]

“I feel a bit jaded especially by the behaviour of those in government in Westminster who flouted the rules and treated the whole 2 year episode with contempt.” (Female, 70+)


“I feel anxious because this isn't over and everyone is acting like it is. Everyone who is still very high risk or CEV[7] are still vulnerable.” (Female, 55-64)

Respondents were worried about catching COVID-19 themselves, or members of their family or friends contracting the virus. Anxiety was particularly high for those who fell into high risk/clinically vulnerable groups (or their family/carers).

“The risk of new variants is huge, yet we are rushing to strip away even the most basic of restrictions and push to 'live with Covid'. We won't all 'live with Covid' - many, many will die and it's awful.” (Male, 45-54)

Worry was compounded by perceptions of the behaviour of other people (as discussed again in section two).

“I feel even more anxious about the year ahead given all the talk that the pandemic is over when it clearly isn’t. It annoys and upsets me when people say ‘you just have to get on with things’ because I really want my family and I to stay safe not just accept that I have to move on as other people can’t be bothered taking precautions anymore.” (Female, 45-54)

There were worries around more dangerous variants, linked for some with concerns around low levels of global vaccination. The threat of Long COVID, and potential long term effects of recurrent infections was also a source of worry.

Whilst some felt more hopeful about the year ahead, they expressed a continued caution around attending settings that were previously considered ‘high risk’.

“I am anxious about all the rescheduled events taking place and being in crowded spaces again. I am anxious about going back to the work place on a more permanent basis. I'm anxious about mine and my family's health and well-being. Overall I would say I’m anxious!” (Female, 45-54)

Respondents also expressed worries about non-COVID related issues. This included household finances and the rising cost of living.

“Unclear, fearful of what will happen economically as we stagger out of this. Particularly about inflation and job security. Food, fuel and utilities are a particular worry coupled with tax increases are a major concern.” (Male, 45-54)


“Physically and mentally exhausted by everything. Heartbroken for the loss and suffering over the last two years.” (Female, 25-34)

The pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s emotional wellbeing. Respondents reported feeling despondent, lonely, deflated and a belief that there was no longer anything to look forward to.

Some had lost loved ones during the pandemic and described the grief and guilt they were dealing with.

“My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the start of the pandemic and died in 2021 and I couldn't be with her. The pandemic and restrictions robbed me of any precious last moments with her and of being able to care for her.” (Female, 35-44)

Some respondents were struggling as they described feeling abandoned now that society was opening back up. Whilst the rest of society was starting to return to a greater degree of normality, they would remain isolated and ‘invisible’.

“People living with chronic illness like me, have been abandoned by the Scottish government as vaccines do little to mitigate against the high risk environments we must be in to survive.” (Female, 25-34)


“I feel stoical I think, really hoping the worst is behind us, but if it’s not we’ll get through it.” (Male, 65-69)

Some respondents described an acceptance of how things were at this point in the pandemic. This was not always a positive feeling but more a feeling of being resigned to this ‘new normal’ and that uncertainty would continue.

Respondents also highlighted that they had adapted to protective measures, and did not have any significant worries relating to COVID-19.

“I… recognise that I personally have to find a way of living through all of this. So I look for a safe balance and live my life.” (Male, 25-34)


“I feel good, optimistic about the future and grateful to be safe.” (Male, under 24)

There were respondents who, whilst still feeling cautious about COVID-19, or exhausted at this point in the pandemic, also believed that there was cause for positivity. They generally perceived and hoped that the worst had passed and were hopeful that things would further improve.

The vaccination and booster programmes were highlighted by many as having given them increased confidence of less chance of serious illness if they contracted the virus. They spoke of feeling safer.

“I feel safer and more confident of the future now my family are vaccinated.” (Female, 45-54)

After the uncertainty of the past two years, the possibility of being able to start making plans again was viewed positively.

“I feel ready to make plans for holidays and to socialise more often within the guidance.” (Female, 55-64)

There were also some who expressed positive emotions about the Scottish Government. For example, The First Minister’s televised briefings were praised for offering reassurance and clarity. The actions of other people were also a source of positivity.

“Encouraged that we might be past the worst, grateful for the cautious approach taken by the Scottish Government, and appreciative of their support for NHS Scotland.” (Male, 70+)

“Proud of the way we have helped each other, abided by good public health measures and have such good uptake of the vaccine.” (Female, 45-54)



Back to top