Countering COVID Stress in Latin America

Home delivery, exercise at home, streaming media, yoga, housecleaning, and cannabis consumption leads the way in our March 2021 survey of over 900 online adults in Latin America.

The social and economic costs of the pandemic in Latin America have been devastating; just under 800,000 dead, 30 million people out of work, declining workforce participation rates (an astounding 23 million have stopped looking for work), and a 7.4% contraction in economic output.

The second wave of our survey, The New COVID Consumer in Latin America, shows that the pandemic has brought mental and emotional health issues to the forefront. Yet the wellness market in the region remains underserved.

Economic Impact

The pandemic has caused a drastic and sustained shift to remote work that continues unabated – 56% in our survey say they continued to work remotely in the past three months. With 30 million out of work, the elimination of jobs in the formal and informal economy has been devasting. Six out of ten households surveyed say their income was reduced in the past three months, while just 17% say their household income has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Notably, women are suffering higher rates of underemployment as they are over-represented in the informal sector and many sectors most affected by the crisis (such as trade or tourism).

A silver lining found in the pandemic is that e-commerce is still gaining unprecedented popularity throughout the region due to in-person shopping limitations and COVID-19 risk. Seventy-five percent remain afraid for themselves and their families, and 67% continue to support the use of strict quarantines to minimize the Coronavirus impact on public health.

In the past three months, about half of the online population has bought more than 50% of their regular purchases using online platforms, a significant increase since immediately before the first quarantines in 2020. COVID has created new habits and behaviors in the region that is likely to remain; half of the respondents in our study say they will continue buying regular purchases online after the pandemic ends.

Large and small retailers (with some governments in the region training small businesses to move online) alike have rapidly adapted to e-commerce, and financial systems are supporting the trend by creating easy payment solutions.

Impact on Mental Health

Economic stress combined with the isolation of repeated quarantines has been a cocktail for anxiety. One study showed that Google searches for words associated with mental health disorders increased during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Due to restrictions, isolation is one of the main drivers of poor mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depression. Importantly, young people in Latin America have had their dreams and futures placed on hold. One in six people 18-29 (and more women than men) have lost their job, with many forced to put their education on pause. A recent study by Cuso International reports that “feelings of sadness, fear, and anxiety, as well as discouragement following the crisis, prevail among young people, where a greater proportion than in other age groups say their well-being and mental health has also deteriorated.”

Our study shows that even one year into the pandemic, more people say they have eaten worse and gained weight in the past three months, even though significantly more people are exercising more often. Still, roughly half of the population is sleeping worse.

Significantly more people – over six in ten – agree with the statement “At times, I feel like I can’t make it through this crisis” this year than during the first quarantines of 2020.

Coping with Stress & Anxiety

Since the pandemic started, online adults in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are coping by exercising more in their homes, cleaning their homes, ordering food for home delivery, and engaging in more yoga and meditation. While roughly equal proportions say they will drink more and less alcohol in the next three months, consumption of medical cannabis products jumped from 4% to 14% (pct. who say they will consume more) since prior to the first quarantine.

Despite these signs of progress, a significant portion of the region still lacks easy access to digital health and wellness solutions. On average, only 7.6% of the population of Latin America has downloaded a health application, compared with 22% in North America and 15.1% in OECD countries. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times.

The mental health challenges the pandemic has brought have caused people to place more value on their family and friends, and many have discovered (or rediscovered) during the pandemic aspects of themselves that have helped shape who they are; aspects that may stick around and help shape a better society tomorrow.

The vaccination process in LAC continues to be slow, and many predict quarantines, restrictions, and physical distancing will be present into 2022

While a positive environment for e-commerce will continue, and mental and emotional health issues will remain in the forefront.

What role can e-commerce play in ameliorating the crisis in the region? What can be done to improve the online experience? What is the right strategy moving forward to retain your new, expanded customer base? As businesses and brands, it’s time to be more empathetic and compassionate toward our clients, customers, families, and friends.

Are you ready? Get your market snapshot:

Contact us to explore how we can help you with your own agile snapshot of your customers in Brazil, Mexico or Colombia (and other countries) that will help show you a way forward.

Study Resources

If you’d like a more detailed look at our recent COVID consumer study results, please sign up for the May 11, 2021 Webinar (12:30pm EST).

Further Resources

Would you like a copy in Spanish or Portuguese? Contact us and we’ll be happy to send you a translated report.

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