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Meaningful Activity, Psychosocial Wellbeing, and Poverty During COVID-19: A Longitudinal Study

Carrie Anne MarshallRebecca GewurtzJulia HolmesBrooke PhillipsSuliman Aryobi, and Tracy Smith-Carrier

First published online March 23, 2023


Background: Only a few studies have explored experiences of meaningful activity and associations with psychosocial wellbeing during COVID-19. None reflect a Canadian context or focus on persons living in poverty. Purpose: To identify experiences and associations between meaningful activity and psychosocial wellbeing for persons living in poverty during the first year of COVID-19. Method: We delivered a quantitative survey at three time points during the first year of the pandemic supplemented by qualitative interviews at Time(T) 1 and 1 year later at T3. Findings: One hundred and eight participants completed T1 surveys, and 27 participated in qualitative interviews. Several statistically significant correlations between indices of meaningful activity engagement and psychosocial wellbeing were identified across T1–T3. Meaningful activity decreased from T1–T3 [X2 (2, n = 49) = 9.110, p < .05], with a significant decline from T2–T3 (z = −3.375, p < .001). In T1 qualitative interviews, participants indicated that physical distancing exacerbated exclusion from meaningful activities early in the pandemic. At T3 (1 year later), they described how classist and ableist physical distancing policies layered additional burdens on daily life. Implications: Meaningful activity engagement and psychosocial wellbeing are closely associated and need to be accounted for in the development of pandemic policies that affect persons living in low income. Occupational therapists have a key role in pandemic recovery.

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