‘It feels smaller now’: The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on apartment residents and their living environment – A longitudinal study

Alexandra Kleeman, Sarah Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions prolonged residents' exposure to their home environment. The impact of lockdowns could be heightened for apartment residents as they typically have smaller, less versatile homes, and share communal and circulation spaces. This study examined changes in apartment residents’ perceptions and experiences of their dwelling before and after the Australian COVID-19 national lockdown. Methods: Participants consisted of 214 Australian adults who completed a survey on apartment living between 2017 and 2019 and a follow-up survey in 2020. Questions focused on residents’ perceptions of their dwelling design, apartment living experiences, and personal life events/changes due to the pandemic. Differences between pre- and post-lockdown periods were assessed via paired sample t-tests. The lived experience of a subset of residents (n = 91) following lockdown was also assessed using qualitative content analysis of free-text responses to an open-ended survey item. Results: Compared to the pre-pandemic period, after the lockdown residents reported less satisfaction with the amount/layout of their apartment space and private open space (e.g., balconies or courtyards). Increased noise annoyance from indoor and outdoor noise sources was also reported, however disputes with neighbours decreased. The qualitative content analysis highlighted a complex interplay of personal, social and environmental impacts of the pandemic on residents. Conclusions: Findings suggest an increased ‘dose’ of the apartment facilitated by stay-at-home orders negatively influenced residents' apartment perceptions. Design strategies that maximise spacious, flexible dwelling layouts with health-promoting elements (e.g., enhanced natural light/ventilation and private open space) are recommended to promote healthy and restorative living environments for apartment residents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102056
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


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