New Yorkers Hopeless About Future as Food Access Wanes Amid COVID


New Yorkers are beginning to believe the COVID-19 crisis will last for quite a while, but many are more concerned about the fate of their loved ones than themselves, according to a new survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed also said they lack hope for the future. 

“The biggest concern New Yorkers report is not for their own health and safety, their employment or their own isolation, but overwhelmingly for the safety and well-being of their family members and others who are close to them,” said Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of CUNY SPH. The survey was first published in JHC Impact, a blog of the Journal of Health Communication

A quarter of respondents said they believe the COVID-19 health crisis will disrupt their lives for less than a month, while 28% said they think it will last four months or more, the tracking survey of 1,000 New York City and state residents found. 

“I think people realize how serious it is by listening to [Governor Andrew Cuomo], by seeing the threat to the U.S. and what’s happening in Europe,” CUNY SPH distinguished lecturer Professor Scott Ratzan tells SUM. “I think this has to do with their knowledge, they’re seeing how bad it can be. We may be at the peak, but we’re not even on the way out of the forest yet.” 

New York City is considered the American epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, with at least 72,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,200 deaths, according to data from the New York City Health Department.

The state has been rattled by job loss, food insecurity, and mental health issues amid the pandemic. Eighty-five percent of respondents reported a reduction in food access, 35% said someone in their household has lost a job due to the crisis, and 43% said they know someone who has tested positive for the deadly illness.

No wonder the survey found that 60% do not feel hopeful about the future — and Ratzan says this hopelessness is highest among young adults ages 18 to 29.

“The younger people are less hopeful than the older, like 68% of young people. That’s huge. We hypothesize, we speculate that’s because older people have been through more challenges — whether its been the 2008 economic crisis, the Vietnam War, or other challenges historically — they are more resilient, that could be one reason,” Ratzan tells SUM.

“The second reason could be connectedness. The older folks are more connected. They already have their communities and a lot of young people’s connectedness is at work or school, so they’re less connected right now.”

Still, a lot of New York City residents said they most fear a family member or loved one getting sick, more than they fear for their own health.

“It’s not shocking. It speaks to the character of New Yorkers,” Ratzan says. “They care. There’s solidarity, there’s community, it’s less individualistic.”

The survey is the fourth of eight planned by CUNY SPH to track attitudes and outcomes related to COVID-19.