A digital view of the Irish 6 months after lockdown began

Tech, and specifically broadband, helped to sustain careers as well as mental health during the Covid-19 public health crisis.

Irish people relied heavily on broadband to support their physical and mental health while staying at home during the ongoing Covid-19 public health crisis, according to new research from Virgin.

The research by Virgin provides insight into the state of mind of Irish people six months since lockdown began and also indicates how digital technologies such as mobile and broadband hold an intrinsic connection to mental and physical wellbeing.

“With a 52pc increase in connected devices we’re seeing more people in the home using the internet for more activities including fitness wearables”

82pc of people say they have already downloaded (60pc) or will download (22pc) the Government’s recently launched Covid-19 tracker app, research has indicated.

Tech nation

Dark-haired man standing in front of Virgin Media sign.

Paul Higgins, vice-president, Virgin Media Ireland

“The current crisis has created a lot of stress for many people”

This detail emerges from research commissioned by Virgin Media Ireland and conducted independently by Amárach Research, surveying 2,000 people aged 18 and upwards in mid-July across all regions of the country. The research focused on broadband and its connection with health and wellbeing.

In the research, nearly 7 in 10 people (67pc) also said they would avail of a vaccine if and when it becomes available.

Virgin Media Ireland’s research shows people have relied heavily on broadband to support their physical and mental health while staying at home during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis – with the majority saying they have been using the internet more regularly for health-related information and support.

The findings indicate that people have been concerned for both their physical and mental health during the crisis.

While 80pc said their physical health remained good during this time, approximately 4 in 10 people felt that their mental health ranged from poor to middling during the current pandemic and recent lockdown. Many used broadband and online services for advice, information and support during this time.

20pc of those surveyed gave a specifically low rating for their mental health with others rating their mental wellbeing as average (17pc) and the remainder saying they felt very good / excellent (63pc).

Using the Internet as a resource, 22pc of respondents also said they had accessed content on blogs and websites about mental health and wellbeing while 14pc watched videos providing mental health advice, support and coping skills.

Digital health

Around 14pc of people said they had consulted either their doctor, another health professional and/or received counselling, coaching or support services, in relation to their mental health, using online video meeting technology.  Indicating the continuing potential for this use of technology, 37pc said they are likely or highly likely to seek consultation or support in this way in the future.

The Virgin Media Ireland research found a strong correlation among those who said that both their physical and mental health had stayed resilient during the crisis to date, providing a pointer to the importance of exercise and good physical health as a contributory factor in boosting mental health.

 Virgin Media found that people are intent on staying fit, no matter the circumstances with nearly two-thirds (65pc) taking part in live, online fitness and training classes more often then they usually would and 30pc saying this will continue in the future.

 Half of all respondents said they had accessed a mix of videos, podcasts, blogs and social media specifically to support their wellbeing during the lockdown, with 40pc saying they would continue to watch online videos and listen to podcasts about diet, health and fitness.

60pc said they also participated more often in online competitions against family, friends and colleagues regarding their health, using Internet connected devices (like Fitbit or others) to count steps walked and other fitness challenges, with 30pc saying this will continue.

Broadband and WiFi usage soars

The research indicates a widespread use of broadband to avail of online services and supports, and this is borne out by metrics released by Virgin Media Ireland which show a 40pc increase in data usage and a 22pc increase in WiFi usage across its high speed residential broadband network during the period from March to June inclusive (2020).

 These results also correlate with Virgin Media Ireland’s own information highlighting an increase in overall connected devices in their customers’ homes with the average now over 10 devices per household.

“The current crisis has created a lot of stress for many people,” said Paul Higgins, vice-president of Virgin Media Ireland.

“It’s clear that broadband has role to play in supporting ongoing resilience and wellbeing, helping people stay connected to health and fitness related activities, access information they need to stay well and, most importantly staying in regular contact with people in their own families and in the wider community, whether that’s social or work related.

“Households have been using our high-speed broadband more than ever before as millions have stayed at home while staying connected to loved ones and the activities they enjoy.  There has been a surge in video usage across the Virgin Media network with upstream traffic increasing by 73pc.

“With a 52pc increase in connected devices we’re seeing more people in the home using the internet for more activities including fitness wearables. The research shows more people engaging with live fitness classes taking place over zoom and other platforms which is also driving some of this increase,” Higgins said.

“We’ve designed our network to cope with the different patterns of usage our customers need to live their lives in these new and different circumstances. Broadband and connectivity have a key role to play in the country’s ongoing renewal, recovery and future continuing success and we’ll continue to help customers in making connections that really matter to them.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 4 August, 2020