Key information 

Te Hiringa Mahara produced a series of eight short reports from October 2022 - June 2023 to add to our collective understanding of the wellbeing impacts of the pandemic and to provide key insights on wellbeing areas or populations of focus. 

Wellbeing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic - June 2023

This eighth (and final) report draws on the previous seven reports in the COVID-19 series, and wider research to highlight the wellbeing impacts of the pandemic, and to learn from them.

The report found that many of the challenges people faced in the pandemic were not new, but that the pandemic and its effects on communities exacerbated and amplified many existing inequities in mental health and wellbeing outcomes, and in accessing services and supports.

In the face of challenges presented by the pandemic, iwi, hapū, and whānau Māori exercised rangatiratanga, providing practical support for themselves and others through the pandemic in a uniquely Māori way. Many communities across Aotearoa engaged in opportunities to improve wellbeing for themselves and others. This was supported by connectedness and belonging, clear leadership, innovative practices, and collaboration with and between services and government agencies.

The report makes recommendations around wellbeing moving forward, particularly that it be supported by decision-makers and government agencies:

  • listening to and trusting communities to do what’s best;
  • investing in communities and social infrastructure supporting wellbeing; and
  • seeking to better understand the experiences of different communities in Aotearoa.

Note: This final paper does not evaluate the Government’s COVID-19 response – rather it highlights the shared and unique wellbeing impacts of the pandemic, for people who experience greater barriers to wellbeing across Aotearoa.

Wellbeing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic [PDF, 8.6 MB]

Pacific connectedness and wellbeing in the pandemic - June 2023

This report looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa and shows how Pacific peoples’ connection – to family, community, culture and faith – has been a key source of strength and resilience in the pandemic.

Pacific peoples endured significant challenges in the pandemic, and this included serious disruption to the ways they connect with family, community, church, and culture.

However, throughout the worse periods of the pandemic, Pacific people drew on their connections to provide flexible and practical support to each other – support like trustworthy and accessible public health information, access to health care, food and care packages, and spiritual and social help.

The lessons learned from Pacific communities' experiences during the pandemic should inform future policies and responses.

Pacific people have shown that they know how to support their communities and we call on decision-makers to support greater wellbeing by listening to Pacific peoples, involving them in decision-making, and trusting and resourcing them to support each other and their communities.

Pacific connectedness and wellbeing in the pandemic [PDF, 9.5 MB]

Exercising rangatiratanga during the COVID-19 pandemic – May 2023

This report elevates how rangatiratanga was exercised throughout the pandemic. It shows that Māori have always had the knowledge and skills to support the wellbeing of their whānau and communities.  

Māori wellbeing is often referred to as being collective, and exercising rangatiratanga (self-determination, sovereignty, independence, autonomy) is a contributor to a range of positive wellbeing outcomes for iwi, hapū, and whanau.

In the face of COVID-19, Māori didn’t just respond, they built on work already done in a way that was grounded in tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori; built on established networks and relationships; and were agile and adaptive. 

Māori-led initiatives shared culturally-appropriate information and resources that protected the health and wellbeing of communities; and supported connection with individuals and whānau.

For improved future health and wellbeing outcomes, we recommend effective Government support can be optimised when Māori responses are trusted, acted upon, and enabled through the realignment of wellbeing system processes.    

We thus call on the government to provide sustained support and resources to Māori to continue to deliver for their communities.  

Exercising rangatiratanga during the COVID-19 pandemic. [PDF, 10 MB]

Supporting wellbeing after a crisis – March 2023

In this report, we show that lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic can help support the mental health and wellbeing of communities recovering from other crises, like Cyclone Gabrielle.

The report shows the following:

  • Help provided will need to target people who already experience disadvantage, including people and whānau with lived experience of distress or addiction, and priority populations.
  • Immediate support should be provided to community groups, especially marae, as these entities are integral to supporting wellbeing.
  • It is crucial to re-establish infrastructure that supports connection and communities, ensuring local social hubs, such as marae and libraries, are up and running, putting face-to-face support in place such as carer and social worker visits, opening schools, and ensuring the community services and volunteers that are reaching into communities are supported. 
  • Supports, including access to mental health services, will be needed for some time, and should not have a real or implied time-limit on their provision.

To help some of our most at-risk communities stay safe and secure during and beyond the recovery we call on the government to work with iwi and community organisations; to prioritise investment in re-building social infrastructure and digital connectivity; to build service capability and capacity with a focus on long-term primary and community options; and to keep watch on the most disadvantaged and impacted communities over the short, medium, and long term.

Supporting wellbeing after a crisis [PDF, 767 KB]

Watch a webinar on supporting wellbeing after a crisis on the News and Resources section of our website.

COVID-19 and safety in the home – March 2023

In this report, we show that the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns led to an increase in reports of violence and harm in the home, with some groups particularly impacted.

The report also shows the following:

  • Being cut off from support networks and being trapped in unsafe situations saw violence and controlling behaviour change, increase, and grow more severe.
  • Women, children, and young people, particularly those who are Māori, or from the rainbow community, were particularly affected.
  • Digital technology allowed online violence and abuse to be brought directly into people’s homes, but the digital divide made accessing help difficult for some.
  • Government and community responses were valuable, but more should be done to empower communities, provide a range of safe accessible supports, and monitor and research family and sexual violence.

To help members of some of Aotearoa New Zealand's communities stay safe and secure in the face of increased likelihood of violence, we call on the government to enhance community involvement in both planning and decision-making processes; to keep equitable access to services and support front of mind; to ensure a range of safe and accessible supports are available when needed; and to engage and check in with service providers and community organisations to understand trends and developments in some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most-at-risk communities.

COVID-19 and safety in the home [PDF, 248 KB]

Impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of rural communities in Aotearoa New Zealand – February 2023

In this report, we show that rural communities face different wellbeing challenges to urban Aotearoa, and the pandemic has presented a range of added additional stresses. 

The report also shows the following: 

  • The pandemic exacerbated rural communities’ challenges accessing support, workforces and resources due to distance from main centres and digital connectivity.
  • Rural communities are diverse, and the pandemic has affected different parts of rural communities differently. Farmers experience different stresses and challenges than other parts of the rural community. 
  • With a higher rural population, rural issues are disproportionately Māori issues. A uniquely Māori response to some of the pandemic’s challenges has supported wellbeing, and should be recognised and strengthened. 
  • Iwi, hapū and marae became centres of excellence for responding to the pandemic. Along with other community hubs, they became a place where resources could be distributed, planning could take place and where people could find connections.

The nature of the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of rural communities has evolved, and will continue to evolve, over the course of the pandemic – life has not 'returned to normal' and the need for support has not gone away. 

It is also important to recognise that rural communities are not one monolithic group, and that rural issues disproportionately affect Māori.  

We call for greater understanding of and research into the diverse needs and experiences of rural communities, and greater involvement of rural communities in planning and decision-making, particularly with rural Māori. 

Impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of rural communities in Aotearoa New Zealand [PDF, 198 KB]

Impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of older people in Aotearoa New Zealand – December 2022

In this report, we show that older people contributed greatly through the pandemic, often coping and supporting others across a range of areas - despite often facing worse impacts of the pandemic.

The report also shows the following:

  • While older people tend to experience better wellbeing than other age groups across a range of measures, predictably, the pandemic had negative impacts on wellbeing.
  • Different parts of the older community experienced the pandemic in different ways – the challenges faced often exacerbated existing inequities in wellbeing, and the factors that affect it.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has changed attitudes toward ageing and older people, with older people being positioned as vulnerable, less adaptable and a burden on the rest of society.
  • Older Māori, Pacific and Asian people were often highly connected within their own communities, highlighted by their ability to leverage whānau and community support to access health services, food and necessities.
  • Whilst the pandemic led to more loneliness amongst older members of the community, kaumātua worked hard to maintain connections with their communities and whānau in a variety of different ways.

It is important that our understanding of the pandemic, and our planning for the future – both responding to crises and supporting wider wellbeing – recognises that older people are not one monolithic group.

We call for greater involvement of older people in decision-making that affects them, greater understanding of and research into the diverse needs and experiences of older communities, and greater recognition and leverage of the agency and contributions of those communities.

Impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing of older people in Aotearoa New Zealand [PDF, 214 KB]

Media reporting of COVID-19 and mental health and wellbeing - October 2022

Our first report Media reporting of COVID-19 and mental health and wellbeing [PDF, 288 KB] provides a scene-setter for the rest of the series.

The wellbeing analysis in the report draws on the He Ara Oranga Wellbeing Outcomes Frameworkwhich describes the aspects of good wellbeing in Aotearoa and guides the way we monitor the systems that influence wellbeing in our communities. 

In this report we publish analysis to better understand how mental health has been reflected in media coverage of COVID-19 in Aotearoa. The findings are presented in short, summary form; with a longer technical report providing greater detail on the data, methodology, and findings.

Drawing on more than 3000 publicly available media articles, we used natural language processing to investigate and to explore media coverage by mainstream news media and how this changed over the pandemic. 

The report identifies nine broad themes and six sub-themes that describe the impacts of the pandemic on mental health in New Zealand. In short:  

  • Media coverage on the mental health problems contributed to by the pandemic has been concentrated on the changes to people’s work, education, and lifestyle, the material impacts of this, and loneliness. 
  • Media coverage on mental health solutions has focused on resources, chiefly access to services, supports and resources. 
  • Distress and other impacts of the pandemic have frequently been normalised and universalised in media coverage.

These are important factors, but this narrow view misses out other factors that we know are important to mental health in Aotearoa. 

Understanding mental health requires understanding the broader aspects of good wellbeing – including connection, hope, rights, self-expression, and self-determination of individuals and communities. In the pandemic context, this would mean considering mental health much more broadly than the direct impacts on health and work.  

Everybody experiences wellbeing differently, based on a variety of factors; and some communities experience poorer wellbeing across a range of measures. If we are to improve wellbeing for all, we need to understand these experiences, and ensure everyone is supported to flourish. 

Media reporting of COVID-19 and mental health and wellbeing [PDF, 288 KB]


Last modified: