It seems a little brash to discuss the things we’ve enjoyed about the past year, when UK deaths from Covid-19 are among the highest in the world and thousands of families have suffered pain and bereavement.
But there have been small fortunes in lockdown – tiny silver linings, if you will – that have kept us going through the toughest days and made us rethink the way we want to live our lives post-pandemic.
In fact, more than half (54%) of the UK public say they will miss some aspects of the coronavirus restrictions, according to a new survey of almost 2,500 people.
Research by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Ipsos Mori delves into the things that have made us smile in the past year.
Almost a third (28%) of people said they feel closer to their immediate family because of the pandemic, while 19% feel closer to their neighbours. Time with family, time at home and quieter roads were all cited as things people will miss.
The research, part of a wider study with BBC News, also found that 32% of participants aged 16 and over said the past year has been similar to or better than average for them personally.
And 19% said the last year has been better than they expected it to be when the first lockdown was introduced, while 21% said their finances have improved.
Of course, there are negatives alongside the positives. While family closeness improved, 31% said they feel less close to their friends. The study found that 43% expect the pandemic to worsen their mental health, but 12% said that this will improve due to the crisis, and 15% say their physical health will be better.
Younger people (aged 16-35) were twice as likely as older adults to say their year had been better than expected. But half (49%) of the public said the last year has been worse than expected, with women and the over 65s more likely to feel this way.
Half of the public (52%) believe the pandemic will negatively affect young people in the long-term, while 22% think there will be no impact and 10% think their prospects will improve.
“There is no doubt the public would rather the pandemic hadn’t happened at all – but that doesn’t mean it’s been all bad for everyone, or that people see it deeply affecting their future,” said Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London.
“What’s striking from the findings are the significant minorities for whom the last year turned out better than expected, or even better than a normal year.
“Many of us will also miss some important knock-on effects of the lockdowns, particularly the time at home with our families and the peace and quiet.
“And, looking forward, there are majorities who say that their own finances, career prospects or life overall will be either little affected by the pandemic or that these will actually improve.”