New figures show fewer Australians heed COVID-19 safety warnings the longer lockdown goes

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Australians are losing their will to maintain social distancing measures as restrictions arising from the coronavirus pandemic drag on, new data shows. 

Victoria is also the only state to maintain the highest level of vigilance as it fights its way through a second-wave of COVID-19 and harsh lockdown.

The Australian National University (ANU) survey of more than 3,000 people showed ‘worrying’ trends related to physical distancing behaviour nationwide. 

The Australian National University's latest survey found loneliness, psychological distress and worry surrounding potential job losses had increased from May to August. Pictured: Melburnians walking in public with masks on

The Australian National University’s latest survey found loneliness, psychological distress and worry surrounding potential job losses had increased from May to August. Pictured: Melburnians walking in public with masks on

The survey forms part of the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods COVID-19 impact monitoring program and was released to the public on Thursday.

When it comes to always or mostly avoiding crowded places, 72.2 per of those surveyed in August said they were doing so but that was markedly down from the 94.3 per cent in April.

There was an even greater drop in the percentage of respondents who were avoiding public places, crowded or not; dropping from 86.5 per cent in April to 55.8 per cent in August.

Fewer people were also diligently keeping 1.5 metres away from others, with 96 per cent in April dropping to 86.9 per cent in August. 

As well as behaviour, the survey also addressed respondents’ state of mind, and found loneliness, psychological distress and worry surrounding potential job losses had increased from May to August.

This is despite Australians working an additional 1.2 hours per day over the period.  

It also found overall life satisfaction dropped from 6.96 out of 10 to 6.85 in August.  

This decline was evident across all states and particularly in Victoria, which dropped from 6.78 to 6.08 out of 10. 

The survey found overall life satisfaction dropped from 6.96 out of 10 to 6.85 in August. This was evident across all states - except for Victoria, which dropped from 6.78 to 6.08 out of 10. Pictured: Australians not adhering to the recommended 1.5 metre rule in Sydney

The survey found overall life satisfaction dropped from 6.96 out of 10 to 6.85 in August. This was evident across all states – except for Victoria, which dropped from 6.78 to 6.08 out of 10. Pictured: Australians not adhering to the recommended 1.5 metre rule in Sydney

Study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said given Victoria’s circumstances, it was ‘unsurprising’ there had been a greater increase in worry and anxiety among people in the state.

It has jumped from 58.9 per cent in May to 68.1 per cent in August, he said.  

Across the nation, Professor Biddle added the biggest increase in anxiety and worry was in females – jumping from 60.9 per cent in May to 68.3 per cent in August.

‘Young Australians also continue to have the highest rates of anxiety and worry in terms of age groups,’ he said. 

‘Worry and anxiety among Australians aged 25 to 34 years increased from 63.4 per cent in May to 69.2 per cent in August.’

Study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said given Victoria's circumstances, it was 'unsurprising' there had been a greater increase in worry and anxiety among people in the state. Pictured: Australians not being socially distanced

Study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said given Victoria’s circumstances, it was ‘unsurprising’ there had been a greater increase in worry and anxiety among people in the state. Pictured: Australians not being socially distanced

The study found more than three-in-five Australians overall – equivalent to 62.2 per cent of those surveyed – felt anxious or worried about coronavirus.

The figure has increased from 57.3 per cent in May. 

The poll showed more Australians thought they were likely to be infected by COVID-19 due to the second wave of infections. 

This was particularly evident among males, Professor Biddle said. 

’34 per cent think they are likely to be infected. This is up from 29 per cent in May,’ he said.

‘Among females, 36.3 per cent now think infection is more likely – up from 35.6 per cent.’ 

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