What is the meaning of human security in the middle of a pandemic? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Expanding on the 1994 Human Development Reports conceptualisation of human security, this thesis adopted a broad, people-centred approach to exploring the perceptions of human security among Aotearoa New Zealand adults twice during the COVID-19 pandemic. At each point, 10 interrelated subjective securities were examined under the category of human security – personal, health, food, cyber, community, economic, environmental, national, political, and global, to explore if and how meanings of human security cohered and changed coherently during times of great upheaval. A convenience sample of 525 New Zealanders completed an online survey examining their level of (in)security, the meaning they attributed to each of the securities, whether they had attained the securities they perceived as most important, and if their level of security was related to their perceived happiness. The Security Staircase scale was used to measure human security; an additional Adapted Security Staircase scale was included to provide further prioritisation information. Eudaimonic life satisfaction and hedonic positive and negative affect measures from the 2021 World Happiness Report were used to measure happiness. A hierarchical human security model was detected, ascending from personal to global security, with the security items reordering across the two-time points. A proximal-distal relationship was also observed; those securities a person felt a greater sense of control over were ranked higher in importance and had a stronger relationship with well-being. Health and economic security were identified as critical areas of insecurity that required prioritisation within the 2021 Delta COVID-19 community outbreak. In line with previous research, coherent differences in human security were detected between ethnic groups and occupational statuses. These findings suggest that the Security Staircase scale may be sensitive to the socio-economic context and structural inequalities within Aotearoa New Zealand. Overall, the study contributed to the human security definitional debate by demonstrating that a broad conceptualisation of human security, examined as a category of research and measured using a subjective scale, provided practical information that can be applied to guide policy creation, prioritisation, and evaluation within the given context. It is recommended that future applications of the Security Staircase scale include the Adapted Security Staircase scale to provide additional prioritisation information.
Permission was obtained for the re-use of Figure 1.