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26th Jul 2020

Study finds women and parents with children under the age of 5 were hardest hit by the lockdown

Covid-19 lockdown

There is no denying it was stressful – for all of us.

The worldwide lockdown and the homeschooling and work-from-home situation – these past few months have been unlike anything any of us have lived through before – and it has taken its toll. More so, it would seem, on certain groups.

According to a new study, 27 percent of people in the UK were experiencing clinically significant levels of psychological distress in April, compared with 19 percent before the pandemic.

And those who have been hit hardest psychologically by the Covid-19 lockdown are women, young people, and parents of children

A General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) assessing the severity of a mental health problem over the previous few weeks showed increasing distress across the population in April. The 12 questions included how often people experienced symptoms such as difficulties sleeping or concentrating, problems with decision-making or feeling overwhelmed.

The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, showed that increases were bigger in some groups compared to others, with a 33 percent rise among women, 32 percent among parents with young children and 37 percent among young people aged 18 to 24. The 17,452 people in the study were taking part in the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) and were aged 16 and over.

The result?

“By late April, 2020, mental health in the UK had deteriorated compared with pre-Covid-19 trends,” researchers concluded.

“Policies emphasising the needs of women, young people, and those with pre-school aged children are likely to play an important part in preventing future mental illness.”

Here is what Sally McManus, joint senior author of the study from City University, had to say:

“The pandemic has brought people’s differing life circumstances into stark contrast. We found that, overall, pre-existing inequalities in mental health for women and young people have widened. At the same time, new inequalities have emerged, such as for those living with pre-school children.”

McManus explains that the findings should help inform social and educational policies aimed at mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health.

“So that we can try to avoid a rise in mental illness in the years to come.”

Interestingly, the team did not find significant deterioration in mental health in men and the over-45s.