Learn about the negative effects of the pandemic on women during COVID. See how the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on women’s health, work and employment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced more than just a virus into human society. While our physical health has been affected by the virus, mental health has also taken a hit.
The pandemic has exacerbated the already existing mental health crisis and women have been more negatively affected by COVID-19 mentally than their male counterparts.
Concerns ranging from contracting the virus to not having access to medical care have been common among women during COVID-19.
Women During COVID: Impact Of The Pandemic On Women
The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women was well-documented in a number of reports around the world. Here are some of the ways the pandemic impacted women’s healthcare, work, and employment.
1. Decreased Access to Medical Care
The impact of COVID-19 on women’s health resulted in decreased access to much-needed medical care.
According to the WEF, women account for the majority of the world’s older population – particularly those over 80 – and thus a majority of potential patients. Yet they tend to have less access to health services than men do.
Over 50% of adults aged 45-64 years were not able to access the healthcare they needed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This number is both staggering and alarming.
There are many reasons why someone may not be able to access care, but the most common is lack of money to cover the cost. Others don’t have the necessary transportation to get them to a doctor or mental health professional, and some work too much to have the time to get care.
More specifically, the pandemic caused people to not want to risk getting sick by going to the doctor or to a hospital unless it was absolutely necessary.
Many essential services were also delayed or shut down completely, like cancer services. Simply put, there just weren’t enough resources to meet the needs of society during the pandemic, which is still at large.
When women don’t receive the medical care they need, it can lead to higher disease prevalence and can prevent doctors from catching diseases like cancer in their early stages.
2. More Stress And Mental Health Issues
Did you know that for every three caregivers in the United States alone, two are women? The same is true across the world – women are more likely to be caregivers than men are.
The consequences of this are an increased risk for conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as physical health conditions. The impact of COVID 19 on women’s mental health was that it made caregiving even more stressful.
Women working in these industries now have to worry about catching a virus, passing on the virus to someone else unknowingly, and being out of work for an extended period due to being sick.
According to some reports, disease outbreaks increase the duties of girls and young women who are caring for elderly and sick family members. Adolescent girls, who are already disadvantaged, experience the greatest risks and impacts when their education is interrupted.
The negative impact of COVID-19 on gender equality resulted in a high number of women struggling more than ever with mental health conditions and illnesses like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.
Studies show that married women in India suffer greater mental distress as compared to married men and, when a woman becomes mentally ill, she is blamed for the illness and does not get timely mental help when she needs it.
According to this report, even at the best of times, women do three times as much domestic work as men. That means they are more likely to be called on to look after children if businesses open while schools remain closed, delaying their return to the paid labour force.
Coping with stress during the pandemic has been even harder as many women have statistically been isolated from their friends and family members.
Luckily, there are several online resources for mental health care, such as online counselling, mental health apps that provide online therapy and self-care apps designed to diminish stress with meditation and other techniques.
While these are a great resource for women with poor mental health, they don’t always compare to the feeling of sitting and talking with a trusted friend face to face.
Be aware of the possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health so that you can watch for any symptoms or abnormal thoughts or behaviours in yourself or others.
3. Increase In Social Isolation And Loneliness
At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was cooped up at home. Sure, you could text, call, or message your friends online, but it just isn’t the same as seeing someone in person.
Women may need social interaction with their friends and family members, and it needs to be more than just a virtual connection.
When meeting with a friend in person, you rely much more on nonverbal communication cues. When you take a relationship purely online, you lose those cues. Think about how different someone sounds over text versus if they say the exact same thing to your face.
In-person, they may say it with a smile and give you a hug, but reading the same phrase over text messaging you somehow get the impression your friend is upset with you.
While the internet and social media are great for keeping up with the people you love, they clearly have their downsides. If there’s anything the pandemic made clear, it’s that women may need more than just apps to connect with their loved ones.
They need face to face conversations and even things like physical touch. The pandemic took those things away for quite some time and they are just now slowly starting to reappear. Most likely, this return to normal in-person interaction will improve women’s mental health greatly.
4. Increase In Job Losses And Unemployment
According to a report by McKinsey, existing gender inequalities have made women more vulnerable to COVID-19–related economic effects. The pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality and women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs.
You probably know at least one person who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are still unemployed. Whether due to pandemic restrictions, loss of income, or lost workers, many businesses have had to close their doors and lay off their employees.
Women are no exception and the impact of COVID-19 on women’s work has been dire. In fact, the number of women left in the workforce is lower than it has been in decades, the lowest level since the year 1987.
Women comprise 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses. One reason for this greater effect on women is that the virus is significantly increasing the burden of unpaid care, which is disproportionately carried by women.
Not only are women losing jobs at higher rates, but they are making less money, especially in countries like India where women earn 75% of what men earn.
Losing your job suddenly can be incredibly traumatic. Not having a job can lead to negative effects like depression and anxiety, especially for those who have kids to feed and bills to pay.
Being jobless raises stress levels and it can be daunting trying to find a new one. You never know if you’ll find as good of a job as you once had, with the same benefits, flexibility, or schedule.
Women are often in an even harder position as they are normally the ones responsible for taking care of the children in the family. This isn’t true for every family, but it does apply to many of them.
5. Increase In Domestic Violence
According to a policy brief by the UN Secretary-General, as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, gender-based violence is increasing exponentially.
Many women are being forced to ‘lockdown’ at home with their abusers at the same time that services to support survivors are being disrupted or made inaccessible.
Being at home without a respite means there is more opportunity for partners to abuse their significant other. Not only is there more opportunity from being in the same place at the same time (as opposed to being at work or elsewhere pre-pandemic) but the added stress at home increased the incidence of violence.
Those who were already experiencing domestic abuse found themselves even more vulnerable to violence. Part of this is because women are more likely to be responsible for household chores.
When they ask for help with these chores, which comes across as being more demanding with family members at home, they were more likely to face a backlash instead of receiving help.
An increase in domestic violence combined with a decrease in medical resources creates a dangerous situation. If you have been experiencing domestic violence, reach out for help immediately on these domestic violence helplines in India.
The Long-Term Impact Of Pandemics On Women
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic affected almost every aspect of life and everyone’s life was altered or affected in some way. Humans don’t respond well to change and, in many ways, the pandemic presented too much change for anyone to be able to cope well with.
Feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety are now rampant in society, especially among women. It will take years for things to go back to normal, but the trauma of the virus will remain. Some effects will be more short-term while others will be long-term, possibly even spanning generations.
Of course, there have also been some positive effects of the pandemic, such as an increase in creativity, and a slowing down of the sense of urgency rampant in modern life. The pandemic highlighted the things that are most important to us as humans – family and relationships.
Many of us learned to focus on what’s most important in life and people, in general, are much more likely to prioritize things like family time, now that they’ve been reminded of the brevity of life.
While the impact of the pandemic on women during COVID was widespread and often negative, it’s also true that women, like all human beings, are resilient.
With these mental wellness tips and tools like online therapy, mindfulness, and greater social interaction, there is hope that the post-COVID world will see a new normal after the pandemic.
About the author:
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics, and specializing in mental health topics including depression symptoms and treatment, how to strengthen family relationships, and how to cope with loss in healthy ways.
Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health and mental wellness, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression and other important mental health topics.