(The Center Square) – The COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of many Nebraskans, according to a new poll.
In the survey by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and Metro Polls, 61% of state residents said COVID-19 affected their lives either a fair amount or a great deal, the university said.
A fourth said someone in their household contracted COVID-19. A higher percentage of respondents in rural counties – 18% – said a friend or family member died of the virus compared to 13% of residents living in metropolitan areas.
Lower-income residents were also harder hit financially than wealthier ones, the poll found. Forty percent of people making less than $40,000 per year said they were hurt financially, compared to 20% of those earning more than $100,000.
"Rural Nebraska was hit harder simply because there is a loss of jobs," Sarah Curry, policy director at the non-profit Platte Institute, told The Center Square. "Typically the incomes are lower."
Lower-income residents were probably more likely to have jobs that could not be performed remotely, Curry added.
"People are starting to realize that the pandemic hit lower-income people harder because of the type of employment that we shut down were their employers," she said. "The more wealthy white-collar people just got to work from home."
Quality of life in Nebraska was also affected by the pandemic, including mental health, the poll found.
The majority of respondents, both in rural and metro areas, said socialization was disrupted. In metro areas, 51% of residents said their mental health was affected compared to 40% of rural residents.
"I think it's interesting that mental health was included in this survey because that's something a lot of people haven't been talking about," Curry said. "We've been talking about the public health aspects, but we haven't been talking about the consequences of the shutdown, the masks."
While rural residents may have been more severely affected financially because of the types of jobs they have, urban residents faced greater lifestyle changes, Curry said.
"Urban people are more dependent on infrastructure and public events than rural people," she said. "I live in a rural area and we still went four-wheeling, we still went hiking, we were still able to do a lot of stuff, but in the city, playgrounds were shut down, people weren't going out shopping and doing the normal social stuff that they do."