Communities in Utah appear to have largely recovered from the pandemic, according to survey data from the Utah Prosperity Project. But there are still a few places and problems that can be improved. Author: Pricsilla du Preez

When Courtney Flint launched the Utah Prosperity Project, her timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous. The global pandemic will soon disrupt many aspects of daily life in Utah, from school schedules to global supply chains to access to toilet paper. But at the beginning of 2020, Utahns were still walking around without masks, working in offices, shaking hands and going about their daily business, not knowing what would happen next.

Flint, of the University of Utah’s Queeny College of Natural Resources Department of Environment and Society, set out to better understand whether people in Utah communities had access to things like appropriate cultural opportunities, free time, mental health resourcesand how they valued the importance of things like connecting with nature and education. What she ended up collecting over the next four years happened to capture an incredibly unique snapshot of Utah communities as they lived through an unprecedented episode in history.

The failure in the data results is obvious. In 2021, the third year of the survey, satisfaction declined across survey categories, reflecting the impact of the pandemic on mental health, social connections and cultural opportunities. It was the height of the work stoppage, and the drastic changes needed hit Utah communities hard, Flint said, socially, mentally and practically.

But now things are finally looking up in Utah. Communities across the state have rebounded after the pandemic subsided. Of the 23 cities that have participated in the project over the years, 17 are again reporting overall personal well-being and in most categories of well-being before COVID-19 or higher.

“It’s been great to see the places we love, both urban and rural, starting to bounce back after tough days of social isolation and uncertainty,” Flint said. “It was such a dramatic shift for these complex societal systems, many people wondered what the recovery would look like and how long it would take. It’s nice to feel that it’s really happening in most places.”

On the other hand, some cities have remained flat or worsened, including places like Moab, North Logan, Sandy, Santaquin, East Carbon and Saratoga Springs, even though some had extremely high scores to begin with .

“Not all communities are the same,” Flint said. “That’s why in this survey we focus on the community level to reveal these variations. It’s clear that pressures in some places affect well-being more than others, from economic constraints to rapid population growth and other local issues.”

There are two other exceptions to the significant recovery in prosperity in 2022: Many Utah communities report lower satisfaction with the quality of their local environment, and some experience declining standards of living. In many places, these variables aren’t just flat, they’re on a downward trajectory.

“We don’t define the term ‘environmental quality’ for people who answer our survey questions, so there are some unknowns about exactly what they’re answering,” Flint said, “but the open-ended comments show that we’re picking up on the effects of rapid growth and development”.

Questions about traffic, loss of open space, air quality and water supply came up again and again in the comments submitted during the survey, she said.

“People in Utah are looking around and seeing their environment changing, and they’re uncomfortable with that change.”

And then there are other confounding factors, such as the economy, Flint said.

“Things have gotten tougher for a lot of people in Utah communities,” she said. “Between inflation, housing costs and a volatile job market, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. In several cities, the perceived standard of living remains low even after the pandemic has recovered.”

But that’s more the exception than the rule, Flint said. In the big picture, Utah communities are well on their way to where they werepandemic prosperity that is good news for everyone.

“However, if we do not see an improvement in the quality of the local environment and standard of living, we may see these problems seep into other areas and the general well-being. This project provides resources for Utah cities to help them navigate local issues and changes,” she said.


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Additional information:
Utah Prosperity Project

Citation: The Big Bounce: Survey Captures Utah’s Community Wellbeing Recovery After Pandemic (2022, October 4) Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-big-bounce-back-survey -captures-post-pandemic.html

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