Understanding how the pandemic and the lockdown is affecting the mental well-being of people is crucial for researchers and scientists to understand as well as government and health care practitioners.
A new study published in PLOS ONE Journal looked at COVID-19 and mental health deterioration by ethnicity and gender in the UK, specifically looking at how the mental health of UK women and ethnic minorities are being affected by the pandemic.
“Our study is about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and how this effect varies by gender and ethnicity,” study author Climent Quintana-Domeque of the University of Exeter told us. “There was no formal theory. Our expectations were that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on mental health. Why? Because the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge negative shock along multiple dimensions, including health, the economy and the lockdown/social distancing measures. We wanted to explore the effect on mental health and whether this was different across gender and ethnicity given the available evidence that the health and economic costs were different across population groups.”
Quintana-Domeque and fellow study author Eugenio Proto of the University of Glasgow used the UK Household Longitudinal Study and compared pre-COVID-19 pandemic data with current pandemic data. They used the General Health Questionnaire for the same group of individuals who were interviewed before and during the pandemic.
“We found that on average, all individuals experienced a drop in mental well-being, but the reduction was larger among women and among Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME),” Proto told us. “Two results were surprising. First, the finding that the deterioration was similar among women regardless of their ethnicity, but that among men, BAME were the most affected. Second, the finding that Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani individuals have experienced the higher deterioration in mental health with respect to White British men.”
In the UK, one out of every four deaths in March and April 2020 occurred as a result of COVID-19. As well as affecting mental health, the ramifications on the economy have been enormous. Economic activity in the UK decreased by 15.7 points between the first and second quarters of 2020. It’s also been noted that ethnic minorities have been at a bigger disadvantage during the pandemic in terms of risk of death and economic hardship.
“We need to investigate further why BAME men and women (regardless of ethnicity) are more affected than White British individuals,” Proto told us. “Second, there is a need to collect larger samples of minority ethnic groups.”
The average risk of infection of BAME is 56 per cent higher for working age people and 69 per cent higher for people over the age of 65. A long term health condition is 60 per cent more likely to affect Bangladeshis than White British people. It’s been reported that Pakistani men are 70 per cent more likely to be self-employed and men from ethnic minority groups are more likely to be affected by lockdowns.
“Our findings suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic, with both its negative health and economic shocks together with the lockdown and social distancing measures,” Proto told us, “might exacerbate existing inequalities in wellbeing in the short and long run.”
Over 485,000 have died of COVID-19 to date and more than 27 million people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19. Worldwide, there are over 110,000,000 current cases, and over 2,400,000 people have died of the coronavirus. Over 84,000,000 have recovered. The virus has affected 219 countries and territories.
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com