Half of North Carolinians have suffered from ‘pandemic brain’, reveals survey

  • 29% say boredom has been the overriding emotion during the pandemic. 
  • Respondents believe ‘Gen Z’ has missed out the most during social isolation.

Devoid of social interaction over the past year, many of us are well-acquainted with being bored at home. You’ve read every magazine and watched your entire Netflix list; started a garden (which seems to be taking forever to grow) and made every banana bread recipe under the sun; but no matter what, your brain feels sluggish and unstimulated. Maybe you’ve accidentally put the milk in the cupboard and cereal in the fridge one too many times lately… Enter the term ‘pandemic brain’: the frustratingly subtle, gradual mental deterioration many of us have struggled with over the course of the pandemic.

According to a new report released by Spider, a total of 54% of North Carolinians say they have experienced pandemic brain – a full 6 percentage points higher than the national average of 48%. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) also say that they’ve been making more mistakes at work over the last year.

Much of the change has been linked to chronic stress that’s been proven to shrink the prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain responsible for focus, memory and learning. Health anxiety, combined with endless doomscrolling through bad news on social media, has also added to our stress during this time. Over a prolonged period, cortisol – the stress hormone – also increases risk of heart disease, mood disruptions and sleep trouble.

The most common negative factor expressed by respondents was boredom: 29% of respondents say this an adverse feeling they’ve experienced most since the coronavirus began. Nearly a quarter (24%) say they’ve picked up the habit of being lazy when it comes to exercise, and 23% have felt loss in interest in general. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) respondents reported trouble sleeping and 7% struggled with untidiness at home.

When asked which generation suffered the greatest loss in terms of social isolation since the start of the pandemic, nearly a third (32%) said Generation Z, who were born between 1996 and 2010. Maybe that’s because many are teenagers or younger adults, who are in the process of developing social relationships. Being apart from others in these younger years can possibly have an impact on social skills in years to come.

How have you been affected by the pandemic?