Pandemic and well-being in Košice. Who was most affected?


According to surveys, well-being (the feeling of satisfaction with life) is different depending on a person’s age and education. Contexts can be sought in our work or in the stage of life we are currently passing through. The pandemic, of course, affected everyone’s life in different ways and with different intensity, but notably the group of people who expected it the least – young people. They felt first-hand that technology is not an adequate substitute for social and physical contact.

Well-being in the Košice 2.0 project

The main aim of the Košice 2.0 project is to contribute to increasing the quality of life in the city of Košice. Quality of life is made up of several aspects (e.g. health, satisfaction with life, work, quality of services, etc.), and we are monitoring selected aspects in the course of the project. At present, even with the consequences of the pandemic, the topic is life satisfaction or well-being. The topic of life satisfaction is an important indicator for cities and their elected representatives, as it also reflects whether cities are responding sufficiently to the needs of their citizens and creating an environment in which they can prosper.

In the first year of the project, we conducted an extensive survey focused on the quality of life in Košice. We focused on four key topics:

  • satisfaction with life (well-being),
  • quality of services in the city of Košice,
  • trust in public institutions,
  • the level of the population’s engagement in public life.

The survey was conducted on a sample of 1009 inhabitants of Košice, representative according to sex, age, education, and district. The collecting of the responses took place in cooperation with the FOCUS agency through a combination of two methods, namely CATI (a telephone survey) and CAWI (online data collection method). For the first time, we know how the inhabitants live in Košice, how satisfied they are with life, and how they have been affected by the pandemic.

What is the well-being of the inhabitants of Košice?

At the beginning of the project, it was important for us to know the initial status of the level of satisfaction with life in Košice. Given the unexpected situation brought to our lives by the coronavirus pandemic, the question arose about how the pandemic has affected our well-being. The lifestyle change caused by the pandemic affected each of us differently.

The new situation was also reflected in the formulation of the questions we placed before the people of Košice in the survey:

  • How satisfied or dissatisfied are you overall with your current life? Express your satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means that you are very dissatisfied with your life and 10 means that you are very satisfied with your life.
  • How were you satisfied or dissatisfied overall with your life during the second wave of the pandemic? Again, express your satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means that you are very dissatisfied with your life and 10 means that you are very satisfied with your life.

The survey indicated that the average life satisfaction in Košice is at a level of 7.03 (on a scale of 1 to 10). The difference in life satisfaction between the sexes is small, with men evaluating their well-being a little better than women on average.

How did the coronavirus pandemic affect our satisfaction? The average evaluation of the population fell significantly by 1.1 points during the second wave of the pandemic. The pandemic naturally affected every resident, some more so and some less so. The differences in the evaluations are shown in the following figure.

What was the life satisfaction before and during the pandemic of male and female population?

The pandemic hit young people in particular

Different things influence our level of life satisfaction in each period of life. While young people want to have fun and meet with friends, a quieter and more settled way of life is often more suitable for seniors. This is also one of the reasons why the pandemic affected everyone differently. Our survey indicated that young people are living really well in Košice, but the coronavirus pandemic has hit them quite hard, particularly in the 20-29 age group. In contrast, the elderly did not report such a significant decline in life satisfaction.

Well-being before and during pandemic by age

Satisfaction with life changes with age

In the professional literature, we can come across a U-shaped well-being curve. This reflects the experience that in many countries a slight decline in life satisfaction occurs in middle age. Thus, with higher age, satisfaction tends to increase or at least does not decrease. We had the opportunity to verify this interesting hypothesis in Košice as well. And here, too, life satisfaction manifests itself in the form of a U-shaped curve – it is higher at an early age, decreases in middle age, and then increases from about the age of sixty with each passing year of life.

Why is this so? One view is the perception of well-being in connection with work. With rising age, the time we spend at work also increases and the rate at which it enters our free time increases. The increase in life satisfaction begins around the 50th year of life when adult children are mostly independent and their parents can “enjoy” their life and leisure time more.

The second view associates with the developmental stages of life themselves and our experiencing of them. While we are young, we have high expectations and goals which change over the course of life; our ambitions diminish and we are forced to deal with the reality of ordinary life. At an older age (from age 50 and more) we begin to perceive and enjoy life as it is. Thus, we throttle back our initial goals and ambitions and enjoy our current life.

The well-being curve before and during the first wave of pandemic

Well-being is best for people with higher education

Not only by age but also education can have an effect on satisfaction with life. The results of our survey showed that the people with higher educational attainment achieve higher values of life satisfaction than people with lower educational attainment. The difference was further deepened by the effects of the pandemic, which most significantly hit those with lower education (secondary school and lower). This may be caused in particular by the fact that the pandemic most affected those sectors where people with such education levels work.

Well-being before and during pandemic by education

Physical contact has (not) been replaced by technology

Satisfaction with life in Košice is at a relatively high level; differences can be seen in the age structures of the population and on the basis of education. These are the parameters that influence our lifestyle, which changes and forms over the years. It is interesting to observe how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the population and in which groups. While young people have been hit the hardest, the pandemic has not affected the older population as markedly. This can be explained by the lifestyle differences. Young people want to socialize and meet new people, while older people live a more settled life. It seems that the very existence of technology has at least partially replaced human contact for us during pandemics and showed its own added value in difficult times. On the other hand, we now know today that no technology can replace physical contact.

We will gradually bring you more detailed analyzes of the survey in the form of articles and news. You can read the introductory article on well-being here.