Impact of COVID-19 on Pet Owners and Global Health Trends

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Impact of COVID-19 on Pet Owners and Global Health Trends

The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of life around the world, including health and pets. Below is a summary of key findings on the impact of COVID-19 on health trends and pet owners.

COVID-19 Impact on Health Trends

Consumers Are Cutting Down on Their Healthcare in Terms of Spending and Visits
  • According a survey by PwC's Health Research Institute, the pandemic is causing Americans to forego their care, with 78% saying that "they would skip at least one visit such as a well visit, maintenance visit for a chronic illness, elective procedure or recommended lab test or screening."
  • According to a McKinsey report based on multiple surveys in multiple countries, COVID-19 has reduced patient visits and prescriptions for most disease areas, with 80% of physicians saying that they saw a drop in patient volumes.
  • Some of the decline, of course, has been replaced by telehealth--as seen in the initial research. In the United Kingdom, demand for alternative channels for care delivery has increased. For example, an online health system eConsult saw an increase from 300 consultations a month in 2018 to 360,000 a month during the pandemic.
  • Healthy lifestyle is also declining due to the pandemic. The percentage of Americans who are unable to adopt a healthy lifestyle due to at least one social or environmental factor has increased from 53% prior the outbreak to 61% during the pandemic. Please see the figure below for changes in during the pandemic.

  • It is also reported that some American consumers are adjusting their spending on healthcare. Please see the figure below for details of how COVID-19 impact health spending.
  • CNBC reports that healthcare spending in the United States dropped by 18% in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Visual Capitalist reports that there has been a 20.2% year-on-year decline in pharmacy spending by American consumers as of May 2020.
  • As of March 29 this year, sales at drugstores in Italy dropped by 28%. As of April, total pharmaceutical sales in Poland saw a 13.8% year-on-year decline.
Mental Health Is on Decline
  • With the lockdowns and economic impact, COVID-19 is taking a toll on mental health. Health experts have warned of psychological distress caused by the pandemic, particularly among children, young people and healthcare workers.
  • According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 45% of American adults report negative impact on their mental health. About 19% say COVID-related stress has had a “major impact” on their mental health--including 24% of women, 24% of Hispanics and 24% African Americans. See the figure below for details.
  • A study by Benenden Health finds that 35% of respondents in the United Kingdom are struggling with their mental health because of COVID-19, with 12% of those never having suffered from poor mental well-being prior to the pandemic. Based on the survey, Benenden Health estimates that up to 23 million people are currently struggling with mental health problems.
  • According to a study commissioned by LinkedIn, 31% of respondents are now sleeping badly, 30% have experienced rising anxiety and 24% say their mental health is suffering.
  • An analysis by Deloitte suggests that the impact of COVID-19 has "highlighted and worsened the world’s underlying mental and behavioral-health challenges" with warnings of depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and other behavioral-health issues around the world.
  • While Deloitte had previously projected that there would be more emphasis on mental health prevention and detection by 2040, it now believes that the impact of COVID-19 will accelerate the timeline by 10 years or more.

COVID-19 Impact on Pet Owners

Pets' Health
  • In the United States, pet owners report that they are becoming more aware of their pets' health. A survey of 1,000 pet owners on the impact of COVID-19 in the United States finds that 84% feel more attuned to their pet’s health, with 20% saying they are committed to taking their pets to the veterinarian for preventive care check-ups more often and 41% reporting that they contacted their veterinarian during quarantine, whether in person or via telehealth.
  • The survey also finds 67% of respondent saying that they plan to make changes to how they care for their pet, with 42% are exercising their pets more than before the pandemic.
  • Access to pets' healthcare, however, can be challenging in the era of COVID-19. Research by the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) finds a sustained decline in consultation volumes in the United Kingdom.
  • Another survey in the United Kingdom finds 97% of veterinary practices limiting their services to emergencies and urgent cases only, 71% of premises remaining open, 5% having closed their main premises and 24% having closed branch premises, as of April 2020.
  • The same survey finds 66% of practices reporting that their weekly turnover being reduced by more than half.
  • By May 2020, there had been improvement with only 26% of practices limiting their services to emergencies only and 90% offering remote consultation, according to a follow-up survey.
Spending on Pets
  • The economic impact of COVID-19 is affecting everyone and spending on nonessentials have seen an overall decline. The impact on spending on pets is following a similar trend. As of April 2020, spending on pet food and care saw a year-on-year decline of 6.1% in the United States, 0.4% in Italy, 5.2% in France, 0.5% in Germany, 0.9% in the Netherlands, 11.9% in the United Kingdom, and 2% in Spain. However, parts of the declines may be due to pet owners stockpiling earlier when the pandemic had just begun.
  • Spending on pet food and care increased by 12.4% in Greece and remained the same in New Zealand. This seems to suggest that decline in spending is correlated with the countries that have been hit hard by COVID-19.
  • Spending on pet supplies in the United States saw an overall year-on-year decline of 21.2% as of May 2020.
  • While COVID-19 has affected pet owners' budget, many are also looking to get pets during the quarantine period as pet adoption and foster surging in many places. For example, a pet foster organization in New York saw an increase from an average of 140 people applying to faster pets per month to 3000 per month.
  • However, a UK-based dog welfare organization warns people that "the lockdown is not a time for impulse buying animals without considering their future" after searches for puppies on its website doubled between February and March.

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