‘Within the next year’ or ‘in more than 12 months’ is when most of the world expects a return to normal life, but one in four see recovery sooner and similar number say it is already case in Russia

28 April, 2021

Expectations about when life will return to pre-COVID normal expectedly vary widely across the world and are charted out for us all to see in research released in Apr-2021 by IPSOS Mori, the London, UK-based market research specialist.

A global survey it completed for the World Economic Forum found that, on average across 30 countries and markets surveyed, 59% expect being able to return to something like their normal pre-COVID life within the next 12 months, including 6% who think this is already the case, 9% who think it will take no more than three months, 13% four to six months, and 32% seven to 12 months (the median time). Still, about one in five think it will take more than three years (10%) or that it will never happen (8%).

The research highlights that views on when to expect a return to normal vary widely across countries: Over 70% of adults in Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, and mainland China are confident their life will return to pre-COVID normal within a year. In contrast, 80% in Japan and more than half in France, Italy, South Korea, and Spain expect it will take longer.

Interestingly, one quarter (25%) of respondents in Russia said normal life has already returned, higher than in mainland China (17%) and significantly above any other country: only Saudi Arabia, India, Australia (all 11%) and Poland (10%)recorded double-digit levels for this metric and the global average was just 6%.

The correlation between managing the coronavirus health crisis and recovering from its impact is clear to see from the research. At a global level, expectations about how long it will take before one’s life can return to its pre-COVID normal and how long it will take for the pandemic to be contained are nearly identical. These reinforce an increasing belief that people across the world consider that being able to return to normal life is entirely dependent on containing the pandemic, a timescale which will vary significantly from country to country.

But the impacts of pandemic will be lasting. An average of 45% of adults globally say their mental and emotional health has gotten worse since the beginning of the pandemic about a year ago. However, the research suggests that almost as many say it has improved since the beginning of the year (23%) as say it has worsened (27%) as the tide has begun to turn with the management of the virus with the arrival of multiple vaccines.

In 11 countries, at least half report a decline in their emotional and mental health with Turkey, Chile and Hungary showing the largest proportions. Only in mainland China, India, and Saudi Arabia do more adults report an improvement in their emotional and mental health than a decline.

This IPSOS Mori survey was conducted among more than 21,000 adults under the age of 75 between 19-Feb-2021 and 05-Mar-2021 on Ipsos’ Global Advisor online platform and was published by the World Economic Forum under its ‘One Year of COVID-19’ report. It provides some interesting insights into the recovery and how the pandemic has impacted people, but also illustrates that the data needs to be read with a wider understanding of what is a fluid situation.

Take for example the situation in India. As CTC – Corporate Travel Community highlighted recently in the ‘India’s ‘U’ or ‘V’ looks more likely to transform into a ‘W’ as new COVID wave quickly blunts the recovery’ report, things change quickly.

CTC – Corporate Travel Community reported: “When we talk about the outlook for travel and tourism it has become normal to add caveats. The optimism that we have seen the worst from a coronavirus pandemic that has brought a sector to its knees and now have the weaponry to at least co-exist with concerns over COVID-19 infections has always will spiced with some caution. The situation in India highlights just why that is the case”.

The IPSOS Mori research for India from just two months ago displayed a population where 11% felt that life had already returned to normal, a further 24% thought it would be just one to three months away and 21% more within six months. Since the start of the year the number of adults who said their emotional and mental health has improved outnumbered those who say it has worsened by 41 percentage points (only China bettered this metric among the 30 countries surveyed).

Any talk of recovery has already been forgotten replaced by stories of deaths and families devastated by COVID-19 as infections show no signs of lessening. Now there is talk among doctors of a “more infectious, more deadly” variant of COVID that will have the rest of the world watching with concern. A repeat of this same survey today could result in a significant shift in sentiment. That is a major challenge as we try to positively look forward to the return to normal.