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Girls & Women

Women Are Bearing the Brunt of COVID-19 Lockdown Anxiety in the UK

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Global Goal 3 promotes good health and wellbeing and Global Goal 5 calls for gender equality, both essential to ending extreme poverty. This research adds to growing evidence that the pandemic exacerbates gender inequality, and shows that women are bearing a lot of the mental and emotional strain of lockdown. Join us by taking action here to help communities fight COVID-19.


Women are bearing the emotional brunt of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Britain, according to a survey from the Fawcett Society, a campaign group for gender equality and women’s rights at work.

The research — released on Wednesday during the UK’s mental health awareness week, held from May 18 to 24 — suggests that women are taking on greater levels of stress and anxiety during the country’s lockdown.

Six out of 10 women (61%) said they are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day, compared with 47% of men; while women are more likely to be worried about the state of the country too. That is despite the fact that men are at an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

Almost half of women (49%), for example, said they were very concerned about the risks posed by coronavirus to the UK, compared with 36% of men; and a higher percentage of women felt that economic conditions would get worse (35% compared with 18% of men.)

The analysis was done by polling company Ipsos Mori, which examined the results of opinion surveys conducted between February and May.

It shows that women are more likely to have experienced disruption to work and finances too: 33% of women in employment prior to the pandemic said their workplaces have been closed, compared with 25% of men. 

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The analysis follows research from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Zurich, published on May 6, which found women’s mental health had been more greatly impacted during lockdown in the US too, increasing the gender gap for mental health by 66%. 

It was suggested this might be partly to do with the extra domestic labour that studies show women still do compared to their male partners, Quartz magazine said — but this is likely not the only factor, as single women who hadn’t lost their jobs were also more affected

According to the Ipsos Mori analysis, women are also taking greater responsibility for caring for others: 44% of women say they have contacted someone lonely or vulnerable, compared with 33% of men; 78% have checked in on friends and family to ensure they are okay, compared with 63% of men; and 21% have delivered supplies to someone self-isolating, compared with 16% of men. 

“The medical evidence suggests that men are more at risk from the coronavirus and one in four men and women recognise this. However, on a range of other perception measures, it is women who are feeling more of the pressure,” says Kully Kaur-Ballagan, a research director at Ipsos Mori.

“In particular, they have found keeping positive in lockdown more difficult than men. They are also more concerned about coming out of lockdown, such as sending children to school, shopping, and travelling on public transport,” Kaur-Ballagan added. 

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This data follows warnings from some charities in April that lockdown conditions were exacerbating the gender divide, with the non-profit legal service Working Families reporting a spike in calls from women being discriminated against at work. Similarly, the charity for single parents Gingerbread, predominantly representing women, warned that many feel “alone and overwhelmed." 

The situation could have different consequences for men and women’s careers too.

Ipsos Mori and the Fawcett Society refer to a public opinion survey conducted before lockdown that suggested that absence from the office might be more likely to damage women’s careers. Some 15% of people said that working from home regularly is likely to damage the career of a woman, compared with just 3% for a man.

Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said that the organisation’s research illustrates how gender needs to be taken into consideration by the government as the country looks to emerge from lockdown.

“Women are bearing the brunt of the emotional and financial fall out,” Smethers said. “Government needs to take a gendered approach as we lift the lockdown and begin to turn our attention to how we emerge from this crisis.”

He added: “One thing is certain: an economy which leaves women and girls behind will fail to recover at all.”