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May 17, 2022
by Patricia Tomasi

New Study Looks At Mental Health Effects Of Pandemic On Indian Women

May 17, 2022 08:00 by Patricia Tomasi  [About the Author]

A new study published in the Journal of Development Economics looked at women’s wellbeing in India during the pandemic and its containment.

“Our aim was to study how the pandemic and its containment policies affected women's mental wellbeing and food security, in a low income setting,” study author Gaurav Khanna told us. “We wanted to find out how strongly affected women were as they are particularly vulnerable in such settings.”

To date, there have been 526 million cases of COVID-19 during the current pandemic worldwide and 6.28 million deaths. The coronavirus disease is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. People who become ill with the virus may experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without treatment, however, others may become seriously ill and require hospitalization.

“While we expected adverse impacts on women's mental health, we were unsure of how big they were,” Khanna told us. “We found substantial impacts. Furthermore, we expected that mothers with daughters may be particularly impacted, as having a daughter in such societies already affects your poor standing within the household.”

Mental health concerns have increased exponentially during the pandemic as people became anxious about acquiring the disease and about loved ones being exposed. Lockdowns further isolated people so they did not have access to social supports like they normally did before the pandemic. Seniors and women were particularly vulnerable as long term care homes faced the most harsh restrictions and lockdowns and pregnant and postpartum women giving birth during the pandemic and having to care for an infant and small children experienced more depression and anxiety.

“Women's mental health in low income settings like India are both understudied, but also extremely alarming,” Khanna told us. “India particularly has very poor levels of women's mental wellbeing.”

In India, there have been 43.1 million cases of COVID-19 reported to date, and 524 thousand deaths. Maharashtra has been hit the hardest with 7.88 million cases to date and 148 thousand deaths followed by Kerala with 6.55 million cases and 69,586 deaths.

“We derived variation in the pandemic lockdown policies from India's unique mosaic of containment policies,” Khanna told us. “Some districts had much stricter containment policies than others, and we can test how women fared in high containment districts relative to low containment regions.”

To do that, researchers had to do a phone survey. Since they were asking sensitive questions, they had to work closely with enumerators to obtain the unique data.

“We found that women's mental health and food security were adversely affected over the course of the pandemic,” Khanna told us. “Importantly, places with stricter containment saw a much more adverse impact on such outcomes. And women with daughters were particularly vulnerable.”

Incomes have decreased in India due to the pandemic. More than 45 per cent of families in India say their incomes dropped to levels below those of the previous year before the pandemic started. Forecasters said the economy in India suffered a loss of over four billion US dollars a day during the first, three-week lockdown.

“We weren’t surprised with the results of our study,” Khanna told us. “We just didn't know what the size of the impact would be. The impacts were quite sizeable.”

Researchers of the current study believe their results show that governments should target food aid and other services during a pandemic, particularly to vulnerable groups like women.


About the Author

Patricia Tomasi

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:

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