Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/COVID-19 pandemic impacts on motivation

COVID-19 pandemic impacts on motivation:
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on human motivation?

Overview edit

Figure 1: The healthcare system has been overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially within hospitals.

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) is a highly transmissible disease that has spread globally to create a pandemic that has led to illness and loss of human life across the globe. The infection symptoms are similar to that of other respiratory infections (SARS virus) with a higher infection rate and has been devastating the world from 2020, and has worsened during 2021 due to new strains of the virus (see Delta Strain). COVID-19 has impacted on motivation in many different ways, of which this chapter explores.

What happened during the pandemic:

-       Lockdowns- lockdowns have been used as a way to restrict travel of individuals to attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. Some examples of restrictions that have been used include closing non essential businesses (such as retail stores), having one hour of exercise outdoors, only leaving the house for essential reasons (medical and groceries), and being unable to travel to other households. Lockdowns in Australia often have applied to specific local government areas or to states as a whole.

-       Travel restrictions- travel restrictions were put in place to control the movement of people, such that it would stop the spread of COVID-19. Travel restrictions in Australia have meant that our borders have been effectively shut to most of the world during the pandemic, meaning that international travel has been halted in this time. There have also been travel restrictions in place for state to state travel within Australia during localised outbreaks.

-       Increase in restrictions- There have been a number of restrictions put into place during COVID-19, such as social distancing, face mask mandates, the use of contract tracing apps. These restrictions, along with others mentioned within the lockdown section above, have meant that individuals have had to dramatically change the way in which we live our day to day lives.

-       Unemployment- with many jobs not being classified as essential, many workplaces had to close during lockdowns. During the lockdowns in 2020, tens of thousands of individuals relied heavily on jobkeeper and jobseeker payments in order to have an income. And while unemployment rose in 2020 to some of the highest numbers we have seen for years, within 2021 the unemployment rate for Australia was at the lowest rate in 10 years, sitting at 4.6%.

-       Working from home (WFH)- while many industries were not able to trade as usual during COVID-19 lockdowns, some industries were able to keep working in a new environment. Industries such as marketing, consulting, legal, design, and more were able to move from working in an office setting to a flexible working from home arrangement. This enabled some of the workforce to continue to work through the pandemic in a new environment, an environment of which some individuals have enjoyed and become more productive as they have a greater work life balance.

These factors all had an effect on individuals while living through the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically on the motivating factors of individuals during this time. While there have been a large amount of negative repercussions that have stemmed from COVID-19, there have been some new opportunities that have arisen that are showing positive motives for individuals.

Five ways in which to measure motivation is through behaviour, engagement, psychophysiology, brain activations, and self-report. The ways in which motivation has been studied throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have been mostly through self-report, as restrictions limit the availability of other research methods.

Some ways in which individuals have been motivated (or have had a loss of motivation) during COVID-19 is through the perception of threat to ones[grammar?] health, fear of the unknown, [grammar?] coping behaviours. These factors have been used in protection motivation theory, which evaluates the health threat to an individual and their response to the threat (Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1997). This theory will be explored later in the chapter.

Focus questions:

  • Who is affected by COVID-19?
  • What is the new normal?
  • How can we learn from this pandemic?

Who has been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic? edit

Focus areas:

  • Students
  • Essential businesses
  • Non essential businesses

Figure 2: Students attending classes in Vietnam via Zoom.

Students edit

The learning environment in 2020 and 2021 has been significantly different from the usual face-to-face interactions with which students were more familiar. There are new challenges that have arisen from living and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as online learning. Online learning has been conducted through programs such as Zoom (see Figure 2).

Findings published by Anna Schwan (2021) found that teachers' perceptions of motivation for students are not aligned to students’ perceptions of their motivation and causes of students amotivation ( This may be due to the teacher not fully understanding the causes of students[grammar?] amotivation, specifically during the time of a pandemic.

Another study that focused on first-year medical students found that fear of COVID-19 was positively associated with motivation levels (both intrinsic and extrinsic). This study also found psychological collapse and decrease in quality of life during COVID-19 pandemic were positively associated with the level of amotivation and negatively associated with motivation (Bolatov, 2021).

Further studies have been conducted showing a decrease in student motivation and engagement with their studies from across the globe including Italy, Portugal, and more (Daniels et al., 2021; Zaccoletti et al., 2020).

While there have been motivational struggles when moving to online learning, there have been some studies showing that some students might actually prefer the flexible method. Some research showed that both students and lecturers would have a positive perspective on using online learning beyond the COVID-19 in future curriculum (Schlenz et al., 2020).

Essential business edit

There are a number of workplaces that are classified as essential during a pandemic, such as grocery stores, medical practices, or public transport. Numerous studies have already been conducted about the mental wellbeing of these essential workers, and found that within these roles there has been heightened levels of anxiety and depression due to work demands, fear of the virus, and lack of personal protective equipment (Toh et al., 2021; De Boni et al., 2020; McKay & Asmundson, 2020; Bell et al., 2021).

Grocery stores have also had to manage panic buyers during peak lockdown periods. A study conducted in May 2020 found four motivating factors of panic buyers - individuals' perception of threat of health and scarcity of products, fear of the unknown, coping behaviour to relieve anxiety, and social psychological factors, involving the social influence of others (Yuen et al., 2020).

Non-essential business edit

Individuals who were able to still work during the pandemic had to adjust to a different way of working. In order to keep employees motivated during the uncertain times that COVID-19 brings, employers and businesses will have to understand the motives of employees and how to adapt to these. Within Maslow's hierarchy of needs there is the need of safety (security and safety), employers will need to understand that there is a need for safe working environments during a pandemic where millions have lost their lives. By enabling workers to have flexible arrangements, such as working from home, that allows employees to have income and a safe place to do this from.

Other non-essential businesses were forced to close during peak periods of COVID-19 when lockdowns were in place. These business closures lead to loss of revenue for the business, loss of income for staff, and for some, a loss of the business.

In what ways were they [who?] affected? edit

Focus areas:

  • Mental health
  • Vaccine motivation
  • Living in a new normal

[Provide more detail]

Mental health edit

Figure 3. The lifeline suicide prevention helpine experienced a record number of calls in 2021 due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental health services have been stretched thin during this time. With the number of calls to lifeline increasing to record numbers, specifically on August 3rd 2021, [grammar?] lifeline received a record 3,345 calls in a day. This is linked to lockdowns that happened during this time of the COVID-19 Delta outbreak in Australia.

Across the globe, studies were conducted to assess individuals mental health and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected it. Studies within Hong Kong, Poland, and Ireland studied anxiety and depression in the general public while experiencing COVID-19 changes. Each of these studies concluded that anxiety and depression were higher during this period and factors such as a fear of contracting the virus, not having protection against the virus, and a loss of income all contributed to the rise in mental health issues across the globe (Choi et al., 2020; Hyland et al., 2020; Malesza & Kaczmarek, 2021).

Figure 4: Vaccines have been hailed as the pathway out of lockdown, as it decreases transmission and likelihood of serious illness from COVID-19.

Vaccine motivation edit

Vaccines have been hailed as the way out of this pandemic. The rates of vaccination in Australia have been high, with people motivated to get vaccinated not only for their health, but for the return of normalcy and the end of lockdowns.

Social identity theory may be able to give some insight into vaccine motivation for individuals. Social identity theory states that people will view themselves by their individual and also social identities (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Individuals may be motivated to stay within the in-group and abide by their social identity to either get a vaccine or reject a vaccine. While there are many other factors that may come into play when looking at vaccine motivation, the social identity of the individual is one to consider.

Living in a new normal edit

This pandemic has shown that we are able to create a new normal of living, to include more flexibility in life. It has changed our behaviours and motivations towards work, study, and everyday living. It has motivated some to live in a new normal way of life in a more positive way than before.

Within the United States, the professional service firm PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC) have offered employees full-time remote work. This allows staff to be able to have more flexibility in where they live and now have a bit more time in their day (after ridding themselves of commute time). Remote work has become a new normal working arrangement during COVID-19 and will likely be used after the pandemic to improve staff wellbeing.

What to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to motivation edit

Focus areas:

  • Overall what a global pandemic can do to human motivation
  • Future research, specifically how to improve motivation within a pandemic
  • Some positives for human motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic

[Provide more detail]

What a global pandemic can do to human motivation edit

Positives and negatives[grammar?]. Negatives- focus on mental health, loss of motivation, suicide/suicide attempt rates. Positives- focus on learning to live in a new normal, being more flexible, having more time for yourself and what you want.[Rewrite to improve clarity]

Protection motivation theory [explain?][or provide a link to the chapter about this topic] can give some insight into how the effects of threatening health information can change behaviours and attitudes (Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1997). During COVID-19, we have seen the protection motivation theory in practice, with research underway into the hope, fear, and consumer behavioural change in the COVID-19 era (Kim et al., 2021). Kim et al. (2021) used factors such as the influence of protection motivation on hope and fear, hope and fear as mediators between protection motivation and behavioural intention to understand how people are motivated using protection motivation theory. The study was able to explain the procedure in which individuals use hygienic behaviours, prioritise local eateries, and engage in conscious consumption. The health threat of COVID-19 has changed the way in which individuals are motivated to change their behaviours to ensure they are safe from the virus.

Another study using protection motivation theory during COVID-19 found that two specific factors significantly predicted increased threat appraisal, which was higher news consumption and loss of work (Hanson et al., 2021). Although more research is needed to identify the protection motivation ecological sources of influence for COVID-19[grammar?].

Future research, specifically how to improve motivation within a pandemic edit

It is likely that COVID-19 is something we will have to live with in the future. Within current studies, most (if not all) suggest there is further room for study in this area as it develops. There is a lot to learn from how we have handled the pandemic and how we might face future situations, such as another more infectious/deadly strain of the virus or in a similar context with another virus that would ensue more lockdowns. Protection motivation theory was able to assist in understanding the health threat appraisal, however does need further research into the ecological sources of influence for COVID-19 for protection motivation.

While this current pandemic is still continuing around the world, current and future research would be able to draw comparisons between the different factors within different areas in the world. Such as, comparing Australia (who has had stricter lockdowns and restrictions) to other countries like the United States (who had less restrictions for a shorter amount of time), and how motivational factors were between these countries[grammar?].


Some positives for human motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic edit

The shift to a new normal and how this can be beneficial to motivation in the future. As stated above, students and teachers are learning to work within a new normal, and would like to use what they have learnt during this pandemic to enhance the teaching environment in the future. This may mean there is more accessibility within the education sector, as well as other sectors like retail, hospitality, and more.

Individuals have been finding ways in which to motivate themselves, some examples being setting a schedule, setting some daily goals, and prioritising mental health. When googling for "ways to stay motivated during COVID" there is a multitude of lists, examples, videos, and more to assist in keeping a positive and motivated mindset during COVID, especially during a lockdown period.[factual?]

Quiz edit

Lifeline has received an increase in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic:


Demand for Lifeline surged during the 2019/20 bushfires and has grown with a 20% increase since 2019. Lifeline's 10 busiest days on record have occurred within 2020 and 2021, with 5 of the busiest days occurring during August 2021 after lockdowns due to the Delta strain of COVID-19.

Conclusion edit

Overall the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which we live, including living in lockdowns, having restricted travel, unemployment, working from home, and an increase in restrictions (such as social distancing and face mask mandates). While the entire world has been affected in some way during the pandemic, this chapter looked at how students, essential businesses, and non essential businesses were affected during the pandemic.

The effects of COVID-19 meant that individuals would have to live in a new normal, with a change in the way we live from day to day. Individuals during this time have experienced higher mental health issues due to the perceived health threat of the virus and the other difficulties of living in a pandemic. Within 2021 there has also been a high interest in vaccinations as they have been hailed as the pathway out of the pandemic, leading to motivations to be vaccinated through the social identity theory.

Within the pandemic there are things to take away from it, such as how to live in the new normal, how we might adapt to future situations that may be similar to this pandemic, and also how there have been positive outcomes since COVID-19. It has not been an easy time to be living and adapting to changes, however it has become a new normal and motivations will have to shift to be able to function in this new way of life.

See also edit

[Use alphabetical order]

References edit

Bell, C., Williman, J., Beaglehole, B., Stanley, J., Jenkins, M., & Gendall, P. et al. (2021). Challenges facing essential workers: a cross-sectional survey of the subjective mental health and well-being of New Zealand healthcare and ‘other’ essential workers during the COVID-19 lockdown. BMJ Open, 11(7), e048107.

Bolatov, A. (2021). The COVID-19 pandemic and first-year medical students’ academic motivation.

Choi, E., Hui, B., & Wan, E. (2020). Depression and Anxiety in Hong Kong during COVID-19. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 17(10), 3740.

Daniels, L., Goegan, L., & Parker, P. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 triggered changes to instruction and assessment on university students’ self-reported motivation, engagement and perceptions. Social Psychology Of Education, 24(1), 299-318.

De Boni, R., Balanzá-Martínez, V., Mota, J., Cardoso, T., Ballester, P., & Atienza-Carbonell, B. et al. (2020). Depression, Anxiety, and Lifestyle Among Essential Workers: A Web Survey From Brazil and Spain During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal Of Medical Internet Research, 22(10), e22835.

Hanson, C., Crandall, A., Barnes, M., & Novilla, M. (2021). Protection Motivation During COVID-19: A Cross-Sectional Study of Family Health, Media, and Economic Influences. Health Education & Behavior, 48(4), 434-445.

Hyland, P., Shevlin, M., McBride, O., Murphy, J., Karatzias, T., & Bentall, R. et al. (2020). Anxiety and depression in the Republic of Ireland during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 142(3), 249-256.

Kim, J., Yang, K., Min, J., & White, B. (2021). Hope, fear, and consumer behavioral change amid COVID‐19: Application of protection motivation theory. International Journal Of Consumer Studies.

Malesza, M., & Kaczmarek, M. (2021). Predictors of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic in Poland. Personality And Individual Differences, 170, 110419.

McKay, D., & Asmundson, G. (2020). Substance use and abuse associated with the behavioral immune system during COVID-19: The special case of healthcare workers and essential workers. Addictive Behaviors, 110, 106522.

Rogers, R. W., & Prentice-Dunn, S. (1997). Protection motivation theory. In D. S. Gochman (Ed.), Handbook of health behavior research 1: Personal and social determinants (pp. 113–132). Plenum Press.

Schlenz, M., Schmidt, A., Wöstmann, B., Krämer, N., & Schulz-Weidner, N. (2020). Students’ and lecturers’ perspective on the implementation of online learning in dental education due to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19): a cross-sectional study. BMC Medical Education, 20(1).

Schwan, A. (2021). Perceptions of Student Motivation and Amotivation. The Clearing House: A Journal Of Educational Strategies, Issues And Ideas, 94(2), 76-82.

Tajfel, H., Turner, J. C., Austin, W. G., & Worchel, S. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. Organizational identity: A reader, 56-65.

Toh, W., Meyer, D., Phillipou, A., Tan, E., Van Rheenen, T., Neill, E., & Rossell, S. (2021). Mental health status of healthcare versus other essential workers in Australia amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: Initial results from the collate project. Psychiatry Research, 298, 113822.

Yuen, K., Wang, X., Ma, F., & Li, K. (2020). The Psychological Causes of Panic Buying Following a Health Crisis. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 17(10), 3513.

Zaccoletti, S., Camacho, A., Correia, N., Aguiar, C., Mason, L., Alves, R., & Daniel, J. (2020). Parents’ Perceptions of Student Academic Motivation During the COVID-19 Lockdown: A Cross-Country Comparison. Frontiers In Psychology, 11.

External links edit

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics:
  2. Australian Government website: