September marked six months since some governments announced the beginning of lockdown restrictions. Around the world, people had to get used to spending less time outdoors and seeing loved ones less. Cabin fever has been a serious issue and it’s not surprising that many people have revealed that their anxiety levels have gone through the roof. However, a new study has revealed that the pandemic has caused a crisis in women’s mental health. In the first study of its kind, non-profit international aid organization CARE spoke to people around the globe about what they’re worried about and they deduced that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on women’s mental health.
As life started to change due to the pandemic, the World Health Organisation released guidelines on how to cope. They included not using substances as a coping mechanism and limiting the time you spend looking at the news. However, no one could have anticipated the impact that Covid-19 would have on people’s mental health. CARE spoke to 6,200 women and 4,000 men in nearly 40 countries around the world. It’s the first piece of research of its kind and they wanted to establish how people were dealing with the challenges posed by Covid-19.
One of the biggest disparities they found in their research was that 27% of women had reported increases in challenges in relation to mental illness. This compared to 10% of men. They identified that due to the fact that unpaid labor in the house had increased exponentially in many cases this had led to stress, worries about food, work and health care. Women were also almost twice as likely to report that accessing quality healthcare services that they needed had been harder during the pandemic.
As people have faced new working conditions and isolation, it’s hardly surprising that mental health has suffered. However, added pressures like looking after families and not having access to services can make things a lot more difficult. Speaking about the research, Director of Knowledge Management at CARE and primary author of the report Emily Janoch said, “Six months ago, CARE sounded the alarm that the global health crisis would only widen the gender gap and reverse decades of progress across women’s health, nutrition and economic stability. And after six months of listening to women and capturing their stories, our alarm bell is ringing louder than ever. Our data must be a call to action for the entire global community to mount a more effective and equitable response to Covid-19.”
CARE identified three key areas of difference between the genders during the pandemic- mental health, food and jobs. 55% of women who spoke to CARE said they’d experienced some sort of income loss in relation to Covid-19. This compared to 34% of men. Due to the fact that women are more likely to work part-time hours or in the informal sector, they were also found to be worse hit professionally. When it came to challenges in the home, 41% of women said they were concerned about a lack of food compared to 30% of men.
“There is power in listening to women. These cumulative responses provide invaluable insights into how the humanitarian and development systems can further adapt their work to support a more effective and equitable Covid-19 response,” said Janoch, “while reinforcing the critical importance of understanding what women need, and how their experience is different from men.”
While the physical health and economic impact of Covid-19 have been huge, charities and organizations have also outlined how people’s mental health has deteriorated as lockdown measures increased. Mental health charity Mind called the pandemic a mental health emergency and reported that more than half of adults (60%) and over two-thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during the lockdown. They found that young people are more likely to have experienced poor mental health during the lockdown and people with experience of mental health problems are more likely to see their mental health worsen as a result of restrictions.
As every aspect of life has changed as a direct result of the pandemic, it isn’t surprising that people have reported that they feel their mental health has deteriorated. It’s brought up new challenges as job security and access to food, medical care and resources have been called into question. As some countries struggle to deal with further outbreaks, it’s essential that people finding life incredibly tough during the pandemic get the help they need.
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