‘Mental ill health gap between men and women widened in lockdown’

A new study shows that mental ill health has increased significantly in women, young people and parents of young children since lockdown.


The mental health of women, young people and parents of young children has significantly deteriorated in lockdown, according to a new study.

The study from the University of Manchester, City, University of London and others, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, suggests mental health has deteriorated generally as a result of lockdown.

The study is based on 17,452 people who responded to a survey and shows that in late April, more than one quarter of study participants reported a level of mental distress that is potentially clinically significant, compared with one in five people before the pandemic.

Mental ill health widened between women and men, with women more likely to be suffering, although the researchers say men’s mental ill health may show up in behaviour not measured by the survey, eg, excessive drinking. People living with young children under five showed greater increases in mental distress than people from child-free homes. The mental well being gap between young and old also widened, with young people even more likely to show mental health problems.

Mental distress was more common among people living in low income households and people who were unemployed before the lockdown had higher mental distress scores than those in employment.  However, the increase in mental distress relative to prior trends was greater among those who had jobs before the pandemic. This group includes those who may have been furloughed, lost their job or worried about losing their job, as well as those shifting to working from home. The researchers say this trend should be monitored closely.

Key workers had a similar average score of mental distress to the general population, but were more likely to have a higher level of mental distress than average.

The researchers predict mental health inequalities will likely widen and deepen as the economic crisis following lockdown plays out.

Professor Kathryn Abel, joint senior author, of the University of Manchester, UK, said: “While COVID-19 infection is a greater physical health risk to older people, our study suggests that young people’s mental health is being disproportionately affected by efforts to stop transmission of the virus. We would recommend policies focused on women, young people and those with preschool aged children as a priority to prevent future mental illness.”

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