The covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health, especially in women. Due to the dangerous spread of this disease, the immediate measures taken were lockdowns and social distancing to control transmission. These measures led to changed qualities of life in many ways.
Although initially the main concern was about physical health complications, it eventually started showing negative effects on mental health as well. According to a study, the most common mental health problems reported by women during the pandemic were anxiety, depression, compromised sleep quality and psychological trauma2.
Increasing isolation and quarantine measures have more consequences on women mental health due to various reasons such as increased workload, psychological stress etc. It is a known fact that home is a safe place to live in, but unfortunately this is not the case with all women.
Let us look at a few different ways through which covid-19 has impacted women’s mental health:
Domestic violence may include any forms of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Research suggested that domestic violence against women has increased from 4.4 to 14.8% during lockdowns1. Various factors such as loss of income, decreased social interaction, low socio-economic status, fear of death, male aggression due to alcohol abuse are responsible for increased domestic violence during the pandemic.
In situations like these, women may find it difficult to seek help and are forced to remain in disturbing environments. As a result, there is increased anxiety, depression and psychological trauma in these women.
Increased work burden
The pandemic has gradually been shifting "working from office " culture to a "work from home " culture, and women have specifically been impacted as they struggle to balance their household work and their professional work. Studies have suggested that one-third of working Indians face mental exhaustion due to failure of separation between work and personal life7.
For most women working from home, there is an increased work load, especially for those who have children and do not have any help in household work. There are no boundaries for jobs when it comes to work from home, which results in increased stress levels. Constant fear of developing the disease, fear of losing loved ones and restricted contact with the world outside has increased anxiety levels in women.
Fear of pregnancy
The uncertain effects of the covid-19 virus in a growing baby, limited treatment options and depleting resources have increased stress levels in women who are trying to conceive or women who are pregnant.
For women with fertility issues it may be extremely stressful to stop their infertility treatments and postpone their pregnancy. Pregnancy in general is a highly vulnerable state of anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes and the risk is doubled in distressing conditions like the pandemic.
These factors increase their anxiety and stress about being vulnerable to the infection and taking correct decisions.
A recent report released by the UN women organisation showed that 96 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021 out of which 47 million are girls and women6.
When it comes to single mothers and domestic workers loss of income and unpaid domestic care leads to increased burden and stress. Globally, 70% of women are health and social care workers, ready to sacrifice their health for a stable source of income. As they have a high risk of infection, they are constantly under stress and anxiety with loss of their jobs taking a huge toll on their mental health.
- Sediri S, Zgueb Y, Ouanes S et al. Women's mental health: acute impact of COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence. Arch Womens Ment Health. (2020) ;23(6):749-756 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7568008/
- lorence T, Patricia JM, Wijngaarden C. Women's Mental Health in the Time of Covid-19 Pandemic. Glob.Womens Health; (2020); 588:372 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgwh.2020.588372/full
- Almeida, M., Shrestha, A., Stojanac, D. et al. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women's mental health. Arch Womens Ment Health (2020); 23, 741–748 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00737-020-01092-2
- Evans M, Lindauer M, Farrell M. A Pandemic within a Pandemic — Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19. New England Journal of Medicine. (2020) ;383(24):2302-2304. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2024046
- The United Nations Women Organisation. The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19 https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/in-focus-gender-equality-in-covid-19-response/violence-against-women-during-covid-19
- The United Nations Women Organisation. From insight to action: Gender inequality in the wake of covid-19; UN women (2020); 978-92-1-005339-6 https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/gender-equality-in-the-wake-of-covid-19-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5142
- Microsoft news centre: Close to one third of workers in India face increased burnout at work (2020); Microsoft work trend index https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index
- orld Health Organisation. #HealthyAtHome-Mental Health;WHO; Campaigns-Connecting the world to combat coronavirus. https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome---mental-health