Women have found the Covid-19 pandemic more challenging than men psychologically


Women have found the coronavirus pandemic more psychologically challenging than men, reporting higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness, and lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness, a study suggests.

Bame respondents to University College London’s (UCL) Covid-19 Social Study also reported consistently worse mental health than other groups across every measure throughout the pandemic.

Researchers say they reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, thoughts of death or self-harm, loneliness, reported abuse, happiness and lower life satisfaction.

According to the study other groups at risk of higher depression and anxiety are young adults, people living alone, people with lower household incomes, those living with children and those living in urban areas.

Levels of depression and anxiety are also higher among those with a long-term physical health condition and those with lower educational qualifications, researchers found.

The study suggests that the biggest stresses around Covid-19 also differ among different groups.

Women and those with long-term physical health conditions are more worried about catching the virus or becoming seriously ill from it.

Whereas people from Bame backgrounds are more concerned about losing their jobs and financial issues, as are those with higher educational qualifications.

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt at UCL said: “It’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions have affected different groups in different ways, with some able to cope with the changes much easier than others.

“Many of the groups identified as at risk of worse mental health during the pandemic are groups who typically experienced worse mental health before the pandemic.

“But Covid-19 appears to have exacerbated these mental health inequalities.

“It’s important that additional support is made available to minimise the risk of long-term psychological consequences for these groups.

“While levels of mental health vary across groups, what is clear is that the pandemic is having an impact across the board on people’s stress levels and overall well-being.”

At the start of lockdown, levels of anxiety and depression were respectively 9% and 14% higher on average among people from Bame backgrounds compared to white people, while life satisfaction was 6% lower.

Among women, anxiety was 53% higher, depression 30% higher and life satisfaction 7% lower compared to men.

While in the last month, levels of anxiety and depression persisted in being 30% and 15% higher on average among people from Bame backgrounds compared to white people. Life satisfaction was also 3% lower.

Among women, anxiety was 50% higher, depression 36% higher, and life satisfaction 5% lower compared to men.

Launched in the week before lockdown started, the ongoing UCL Covid-19 Social Study is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

It looks at how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and their overall wellbeing and mental health. Over 70,000 participants have been followed across the last 30 weeks.

The study further found that majority compliance with the measures to reduce the spread of the virus remains high at around 90%.

It is no different by education or income, but people with higher educational qualifications and higher household income are bending the rules more, and complete compliance has dropped substantially since the spring, researchers found.

The study suggests these groups also have lower confidence in the government to handle the pandemic, but are psychologically coping better with the toll of the Covid-19, with better mental health overall.