Here's What People Miss Most From Their Pre-Pandemic Lives

In a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, Americans look back at everything they've lost since the coronavirus took hold in the country last year.

Last March, as states locked down and coronavirus cases began sweeping the U.S., HuffPost asked people across the nation to tell us what they missed most from their daily lives before the outbreak. Since then, Americans have struggled to adapt to a new normal, grappling with everything from a slew of mild inconveniences to job loss to the death of a loved one.

In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 71% of Americans expect the pandemic to have a lasting effect on the country, and 87% say it’s continuing to have at least a little influence on the way they’re currently living. Almost half, 45%, say their lives have been affected by a lot.

Nearly a year after the start of the pandemic, we asked respondents the same question we posed last March: “What, if anything, do you miss most about your daily life before the start of the coronavirus outbreak?”

As before, the stories people told us varied in scope and severity, from lacking friends to play cards with or a sense of spontaneity to grieving a spouse who died during the pandemic. Some chafed at coronavirus restrictions, such as mask requirements, that have been implemented to slow the spread of the disease. Others made sure to note that, compared to others, they had little to complain about. Many longed for an end to social isolation, a return to a more normal daily routine or an end to the pervasive worries they’ve carried for months.

Here’s a sampling of the responses, lightly edited for clarity and length:

“Quick trips to the grocery store and fast food, also farmers’ markets.” ― 61-year-old Oregon woman

“My kids going to school, seeing my friends, eating in restaurants, not living every day feeling like I’m under water.” ― 37-year-old Massachusetts woman

“Working. I was laid off a month into the virus because they shut down the bar I was working at. Have not been able to find work since.” ― 51-year-old Arizona man

“Feeling comfortable in crowds, going to restaurants, movies, bowling, clubs, bars, sports events. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable doing those activities again.” ― 22-year-old Washington, D.C., woman

“I miss group interactions with friends. It almost makes you feel like you have no friends because you can’t get together.” ― 52-year-old Indiana woman

“The thing I missed the most about my daily life was not being able to attend church. We went for many months not being able to go, but thank God the churches are open again!” ― 79-year-old Michigan woman

“I miss going to concerts. My soul is shriveling without live music.” ― 26-year-old Texas man

“Having the option to go out and do things, even if I chose not to.” ― 35-year-old Maine woman

“I had just started a band and I was finally living my dream playing shows.” ― 20-year-old Maryland man

“I miss faces. I can’t stand wearing a mask, and feeling sick after I take it off. I am sick of being yelled at for not wearing one when I am outside and on property grounds. Getting yelled at for it not being on correctly. It is a sham!” ― 72-year-old Nevada woman

“Hugging my mom. She is 97 years old and needs this comfort.” ― 74-year-old New Jersey man

“Not waking up crying from missing loved ones.” ― 35-year-old Oklahoma man

“Eating in restaurants, going to the movies, not having to worry that someone I love will die.” ― 37-year-old Oregon woman

“Since my daughter began working from home and we’ve had no more than a couple of hours a month away from each other for almost a year, it’s become a bit cramped in our little house! So what I miss most is privacy and Mexican food that’s not in a soggy takeout box.” ― 66-year-old Arizona woman

“My husband used to work in an office. Now he works from home. My days off are spent entertaining him and keeping him company. I miss my quiet alone time.” ― 54-year-old Pennsylvania woman

“The quaint answer is smiles. I really miss them and all nonverbal facial communication. But the trenchant response is the presumption of communal regard, of common good. I miss assuming that folks would do unto me as I do unto them. ” ― 42-year-old Tennessee man

“I miss the connecting with others. You are hurt by others sometimes, but this is what makes life challenging. This is missing and hopefully will be returning sooner than later.” ― 61-year-old Georgia woman

I miss the hope I gained after our autistic preschooler had benefited from 2 years of progress through access to early intervention services, which has been significantly limited this year. That time is gone. We will never have that window again in which to provide functional assistance and supports for his growth and development.” ― 39-year-old Florida woman

“Seeing pretty women without masks hiding their faces.” ― 47-year-old Pennsylvania man

“The presence of my husband who passed away at the beginning of the outbreak. My daily life dissolved after that.” ― 65-year-old West Virginia woman

“I miss my family. I miss family trips. I miss movie theaters. I miss museums. I miss hot springs. I miss beaches. I miss mountains. I miss having a steady income. I miss having money for fun activities. I miss not feeling anxious about burning through my emergency fund. I miss taking road trips. I miss chatting with people I encounter. I miss seeing the smiles of people I interact with. I miss my son. I miss my ex wife. I miss my ex girlfriend. I miss the affections they lavished upon me. I miss socializing with friends and family. I miss having fun with them. I miss my savings. I miss having disposable income. I miss having hope for the future. I miss happier times. I miss my youth. I miss feeling a connection with those dear to me. I miss my freedom. I miss feelings of optimism. I miss the American dream.” ― 50-year-old Colorado man

“Everything. I miss life.” ― 30-year-old Georgia man

Other findings from the survey:

  • A 43% plurality of Americans say there is the right level of coronavirus restrictions where they live, with 23% saying there are too many and 25% that there aren’t enough.

  • Just over half of Americans, 54%, say they’re about as concerned about the coronavirus as most of their family and friends are, with 23% saying they are more concerned than the people around them and 14% that they’re less concerned. Forty-three percent say they’re about as concerned as most in their community, with 31% saying they’re more concerned than others who live nearby, and 18% that they’re less concerned than average.

  • A 65% majority of the public now knows someone who’s been vaccinated. Slightly over half say they’ve either been vaccinated (13%) or plan to do so when a shot becomes available to them (40%), with 18% not yet sure.

  • By 52% to 32%, Americans approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of issues related to the coronavirus. They’re close to split on the performance of the government overall, with 45% approving and 42% disapproving.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 12-15 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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