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How did the lifestyle of Ukrainians change during the war? Let's not forget about sleep, sex and our own health

ZN.UA Infographics
How did the lifestyle of Ukrainians change during the war? Let's not forget about sleep, sex and our own health © Getty Images

A full-scale war waged by Russia against Ukraine has been going on for more than a year. For more than a year, Ukrainians have been living under constant stress, which sometimes becomes extreme.

How did the lifestyle of fellow citizens change during the war? What cheers them up in difficult situations, and what, on the contrary, spoils their mood? We asked the citizens of our country about it. ZN.UA is grateful to the sociological service of the Razumkov Center, which helped us get answers.

That will help to balance the psychological state

"Whose well-being is most important to you?" – we asked the citizens. And in second place, after the traditional well-being of their family (50.2%), the respondents, by a large margin from other answers, put the well-being of the country (32.5%). Own well-being was the most important for only 8.8%, and the well-being of friends and relatives – for 2.6% of people. (see Fig. 1)

"A country exposed to the obvious risk of destruction is not perceived as something imaginary and separate from something that is personal – it is about an area of existence. A favorite, a liked one is one's own," comments psychologist Olena Podolian, director of the "Forpost" public organization, on the results.

To the question "What cheers you up the most?" of the given options, the vast majority of respondents put "communication with family and friends" first (62%). In second place among the incentives that help the citizens of our country to be in a satisfactory psychological state, albeit by a large margin, is "communication with those who are at the front" (9.5%) (see Fig. 2).

"There is nothing surprising," says the psychologist. – After more than a year of full-scale war, a significant number of civilians subjectively feel ineffective. After all, no matter how much effort people make to support the country in the rear or the close circle of acquaintances, everything seems insufficient. People experience an irrational "survivor's guilt" that requires them to be more efficient, patient, and persistent in circumstances where it is difficult to assess the results of their own efforts. For obvious reasons, many soldiers are not bothered by the fact that they should "try better". It is clear that they are a source of inspiration for civilians as an example of strength, resilience and social realization, if we understand by this that which causes deep gratitude and respect from compatriots.

But when almost the same number of respondents (9.8%) answered the question "Which of the following spoils your mood the most?" (see Fig. 3), called "communication with those who are on the front", then we are talking about more private things. When the people worry about the soldiers, learning that they are in critical danger, exhausted, or forced to care about the supply; when conflicts occur –  if combatants are expected to be actively involved in family matters, etc.

By the way, given the context, I would not consider the answer "nothing encouraging", which took third place (7.5%), negative. Here you can also add "difficult to answer" (6.1%). People generally deal with their own lives and challenges. Probably, the Ukrainians did heed the advice of Podervianskyi, who long ago formulated the Ukrainian national idea of "get away from us", the essence of which has now been revealed in its entirety. First of all, it makes sense "not to torture oneself morally." People understand that if you haven't gone crazy yet, if you're still somehow functioning, and if you can just live and work normally with the existing set of reflections described above, that's a good enough result.

The same can be said about 17% of people for whom "nothing spoils the mood." This is a high result. Moreover, if we add to it 24.4% of those who chose the answer option "difficult to answer", we recognize them as those who either did not find sufficiently good reasons, or had reasons that can be kept silent. All this characterizes general stability and effectively working, albeit immature, mechanisms of protection against traumatic factors, namely displacement and denial."

An equally healthy reaction, according to the psychologist, is the fact that the first place among the reasons that drive people into sadness is the viewing of the telethon "Edyni Novyny" (19.1%), which is probably not perceived by many as a source of news, but as a channel of political agitation. By the way, only 5% of Ukrainians are encouraged by the telethon. This means that the authorities should think about either the form or the quality of communication with citizens.

It can also be assumed that 14.2% of respondents, whose mood is spoiled by "watching other media, except telethon", do not receive high-quality analytics there. These people are not given new information that would help them orient themselves in reality and predict their future, but only once again tell about the already known facts or interpret them in favor of the interests of the owners of Telegram or YouTube channels.

This is evidenced by the answers to the question "What helps you cope with uncertainty in the future?" (see Fig. 4). 22.8% of respondents answered: "I follow the predictions about the war from Western analysts", and 24.6% –"I follow the predictions of the further development of events from the point of view of the head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Budanov, as well as other Ukrainian military and analysts." People appreciated the role of primary sources. It would also be a positive factor if primary sources informed people, and did not manipulate their opinion...

Almost a third of Ukrainians (32.3%) chose the answer "I rely on God because everything is His will." According to Olena Podolian, this speaks of faith in justice. After all, "God sees everything", and this is by no means a matter of people's fatalism. After all, 19.6% of respondents who answered: "I don't need anything, I am sure of my future or I create it myself", instill optimism that civil society exists in us. In addition, it also means that it is quite numerous in our country and feels capable of influencing its own future and the future of the country.

Although, let's add, citizens' interest in molfars, psychics and astrological predictions has also increased. This is evidenced by the ratings of the publications that publish them. Looking at them, the CEO of ZN.UA enviously, but hopelessly, simply has nothing to say.

Life style during the war

"How has the war changed the time you devote to hobbies, sports, visiting cinemas, cafes, restaurants, watching TV series, reading books, learning a foreign language, checking your health and treatment, self-education, watching news, communicating with children, parents, colleagues, meetings with friends, communication on social networks and messengers, quarrels on social networks and messengers, sleep, shopping, communication with a psychologist, sex?" –  we asked the Ukrainians. And in each of the listed points, they were offered to choose one of the answers: "Neither before the war, nor now, I do not allocate time for this", "It has not changed", "Increased", "Decreased", "It is difficult to answer" (see Fig. 5).

Most of the respondents (79.9%) stated that neither before the war nor now did they spend time communicating with a psychologist. "It is unlikely that polls on this issue will be reliable in the next year or two. Our people still do not have a culture of freely talking about mental health and specialized services, says Olena Podolian. – Only 3.1% of Ukrainians admitted that they increased the time they spent working with a psychologist. And this, given the circumstances in our country, is either only a part of the truth, or a clear ignorance of the problem.

But I am much more concerned about the answers about checking the state of somatic health and treatment. People usually talk more openly about this. The fact that for 49.8% of people this time has not changed, and for 18.2% of citizens this time has even decreased, is a disaster. This problem should be announced loudly and seriously. Prolonged stress, regularly supplemented by extreme stress, exhausts and undermines physical health. Ukrainians, especially those who live in the central regions or regions close to hostilities, are obliged to carefully and timely check the state of their health and that of their loved ones. Prolonged extreme stress can eventually lead to physiological diseases, because it exhausts the body.

Hobbies, sports, visiting cafes, restaurants, cinemas (provided safety is observed) are useful. These activities serve as additional factors that help reduce stress, improve emotional state, and strengthen resilience. They have a positive effect on mental health and, ultimately, on the quality of physical health. However, a positive effect from these activities can be obtained only if a person carefully monitors these two types of health, listens to his body and diagnoses the disease in time."

44.5% of Ukrainians reduced the time they spend shopping because of the war. It started back in the days of the COVID-19 quarantine, when it was enough for all of us to just have comfortable home clothes, and this is a record number. Therefore, the psychologist believes, it is probably better to be happy than to be sad because of this. "Ukrainians have finally been cured of the post-Soviet disease of consumption, which has long been considered a bad tone in the civilized world. This trend should be cultivated, says Olena Podolian. – Although it is worth considering that these 44.5% of people also include respondents whose standard of living has significantly decreased, as well as their purchasing power.

But the fact that 59.7% began to spend more time watching the news (with which they are terribly dissatisfied) is not pleasing. This way of dealing with anxiety is ineffective. It is better to focus on solving personal pressing issues, for example, diagnosis or treatment.

I am also confused by the 17% of respondents who could not answer how the time they devote to sex has changed. You can get confused with the answer to the question about what cheers up or, on the contrary, spoils the mood. But not knowing the exact answer to this question ... Either people are ashamed to talk about it, or they have so forgotten about sex altogether that they had problems with it even before the start of the war. Although it should not be forgotten: among the respondents there are many older people. And 14% for various, including objective, reasons (many families are divided, some have wives abroad, some have husbands fighting, and some, unfortunately, lost their partner during the war) began to devote less time to sex. However, sex is an important aspect of intimacy, and perhaps we need to be concerned about the prospects for reproductive health and the reproductive potential of the nation."

After watching the news, the time spent by Ukrainians on communicating with their children (34.5%) and parents (27%) increased the most. The war forced people to unite and take more care of those who need attention and care the most. These are children and elderly people.

Ukrainians seem to compensate for the reduced time spent communicating with friends (35.1%) by communicating on social networks. In 24.6% of people, the time spent on this activity increased. "In social networks, people received and continue to receive a lot of information," Olena explains. – They exchange it with others in their "information bubbles". This is a normal reaction under conditions of life under stress, namely to check with the environment, determining the most general trends and mood of people in the country. Moreover, 12.2% talk about increasing the time people spend on social networks. And this is despite the frequent "quarrels" between our citizens on the Internet. And this is a completely normal indicator, from which, by the way, you can draw not a conclusion, but a working hypothesis: tough "quarrels" in social networks between citizens are mostly settled by paid bots."

The situation with sleep looks very alarming. Although 48% of respondents said that the amount of time they spend sleeping has not changed, 40.9% of people have started sleeping less. "Sleep is your personal hospital," the psychologist tells readers. – Sleep, food, activity are the three keys on which human health is based. We fight not only for survival, but also for the quality of life. It is worth remembering about this. Therefore, you should start sleeping normally, eating, having sex (who has the opportunity), enjoying Ukrainian art and quality content – at a safe time and in a safe place. Check your health, get treatment on time and make sure that your loved ones do the same."

The survey was conducted by the Razumkov Center on behalf of ZN.UA from April 28 to May 3, 2023, using the face-to-face method in 22 regions of Ukraine and the city of Kyiv. 2020 respondents over the age of 18 were surveyed. The theoretical sampling error is no more than 2.3%.

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