National data suggests women have suffered more than men in lockdown
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New data has been published showing the different effects on men and women since last March. Nick Richards takes a look
When a televised address from prime minister Boris Johnson on March 23, 2020 told us we must stay home and go into lockdown, life for everyone in the country changed.
Schools, offices, shops, businesses and livelihoods were closed and social interaction was restricted.
Now data from the Office of National Statistics and the Government has been merged to summarise some of the different impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on men and women.
“There are some striking differences in the impacts on men and women,” says Chris Payne from the ONS.
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“The coronavirus death toll is higher amongst men. Elsewhere, we see women continuing to take a greater share of unpaid work at home and experiencing significantly poorer personal well-being than men.”
In her column, Rachel Moore suggests that women have borne the brunt of lockdown when it comes to home-schooling and childcare and that they may have suffered more from feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression. This data appears to back this theory up.
Here are the key findings:
The number of coronavirus-related deaths were higher for men than for women: 63,700 compared with 53,300 between March 2020 and January 2021, in England and Wales.
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The difference was greatest in the early days of the pandemic, particularly between March 1 2020 and April 30, 2020 when 30% more men (21,600) than women (16,600) died in the UK due to Covid-19 during those two months.
Women were more likely than men to be furloughed: 2.91m to 2.72m for men on July 1, 2020.
Over time, the difference decreased, with preliminary data suggesting that on the December 31 1.88m women and 1.85m men were furloughed.
The other major change to people’s working lives since March 2020 has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of people working from home.
Roughly equal numbers of men and women (86%) cited the coronavirus pandemic as their reason for working from home in April 2020.
Men and women have both moved to homeworking, with men initially helping more with unpaid work and unpaid childcare; however, the difference increased in September to early October 2020 compared with the start of the pandemic.
Women consistently spent more time on unpaid childcare and unpaid household work throughout the pandemic than men.
Initially, in March and April 2020, men did two hours and 25 minutes of unpaid household work and childcare in an average day to women’s three hours 32 minutes.
However, this fell to one hours 57 minutes to women’s three hours 17 minutes by September and early October 2020.
At the beginning of the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, women spent 55% more time than men on unpaid childcare.
However, this difference is smaller than in September and October 2020, when women spent 99% more time on unpaid childcare than men.
A greater proportion of women (67%) than men (52%) home-schooled a school-age child in their home in late January and early February 2021.
In April and early May 2020, around one in three women (34%) reported that their well-being was negatively affected by home-schooling a school age child compared with only one in five men (20%).
By late January and early February 2021, it was taking a greater toll on both women (53%) and men (45%).
Feelings of anxiety, loneliness, depression, and being worried about coronavirus have been experienced by women throughout the pandemic, and often more so than for men.
The well-being impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have been wide reaching. Office for National Statistics (ONS) research has shown significantly different levels of anxiety, loneliness and worry about the coronavirus, and depressive symptoms, between men and women during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, average anxiety scores increased to the highest levels recorded since the ONS began collecting personal well-being data. Women reported significantly higher anxiety than men at almost every point between March 20, 2020 and February 7, 2021, continuing the pre-pandemic trend.
Recent regression analysis found that loneliness was the strongest driver of anxiety in March and April 2020.
Analysis found that someone reporting loneliness is up to 4.7 times more likely to also experience high anxiety than someone who says they never feel lonely.
Further analysis found that, while controlling for other characteristics such as age, disability and access to essentials, women were 1.3 times more likely to report loneliness than men during this time-period.
The difference between men and women's level of loneliness and depressive symptoms was largest from June 2020 onwards, implying that changes in levels of depression and loneliness were preceded by changes in anxiety.
Students: The ONS also asked a sample of 2,7000 students for their thoughts during the first 11 months of lockdown.
Loneliness: Students were far more likely to report experiencing loneliness compared to the adult population in Great Britain, with 26% of students reporting loneliness compared to 8% across a similar time period.
Loneliness in younger students: Compared to those aged 16 to 29 years old in the Great Britain population, students aged between 16 to 29 years old were almost three times as likely to report they felt lonely often or always (12% compared to 33% respectively).
Mental Health: Almost two-thirds (63%) of students indicated their well-being and mental health had worsened since the start of the autumn 2020 term, remaining relatively the same in January 2021.
Living arrangements and mental health: Those whose living arrangements had changed since the start of autumn 2020 were more likely to report a worsening of their well-being and mental health (71%) compared to those whose living arrangements remained the same (62%).
Life satisfaction: Average life satisfaction scores for students improved from mid-January 2021 from 4.8 to 5.1. However, this remains significantly lower than the average life satisfaction for the adult population in Great Britain at 6.4 over a similar period.
Academic and social experience: The percentage of students reporting being dissatisfied with their academic and social experience remained elevated since January 2021. 33% of students reported dissatisfaction with their academic experience and 57% with their social experience.
Moving residence: 85% of students reported they were currently living at the same address as where they started the autumn 2020 term. Of those that had moved, 43% planned to return to their original address before the end of the academic year and 55% were not planning on returning.
Staying with other households: Of all students, 15% said that they expected to stay with people that are not part of their current household for a period of two weeks or more, over the next two months.
Living with family: Over half (51%) of students who had moved since the start of the autumn 2020 term were now living with parents, guardians or family members.
Tim Gibbs, senior researcher on Student Covid-19 Insights Survey, said: “Students have continued to have tough time into the new year, with Covid restrictions curtailing the things they can do, with many reporting dissatisfaction with their academic and social experiences at university.
“Over a quarter are feeling lonely often or always, a significantly higher amount than the adult population. Nearly two-thirds still report a worsening of their well-being and mental health since the beginning of the autumn 2020 half term.
“Though their life satisfaction has rebounded slightly since January, similar to the adult population, student’s life satisfaction remains far below the national adult average and students report experiencing greater anxiety than adults.
“We will continue to monitor student responses to better understand how they are feeling as restrictions are gradually lifted in the coming months.”
For more information, see www.ons.gov.uk