A comparison of men and women’s responses to a Central Statistics Office's (CSO) Social Impact of COVID-19 survey, finds that women’s well-being is being more adversely affected by the crisis.
Both men and women rated their overall life satisfaction lower in April 2020 than in 2013 when the country was experiencing the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. In April 2020 however, there was a greater increase in the percentage of female respondents reporting “Low” satisfaction with overall life.
A breakdown of the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey April 2020, shows that more female respondents reported being ‘Extremely’ concerned about their own health, somebody else’s health and maintaining social ties than male respondents. For example, more than one in four women (27.6%) were ‘Extremely’ concerned about somebody else’s health, compared to one in five men (20.1%),” commented Statistician Claire Burke on the results.
The percentage of women who rated their overall life satisfaction as “Low” in 2013 was 15.1%, with a similar percentage of men reporting the same (15.5%). Five years later (2018), when the economy was growing strongly, this had improved significantly with just 9.0% of women and 8.4% of men reporting their overall life satisfaction as “Low”.
The societal changes resulting from the COVID-19 crisis seems to be impacting more negatively on women’s well-being. The percentage of women now reporting “Low” satisfaction with overall life is more than double the rate in 2013 (36.7% and 15.1% respectively). The rate for men now reporting “Low” satisfaction with overall life has not risen as dramatically, with 22.0% reporting “Low” satisfaction in April 2020 compared with 15.5% in 2013.
The percentage of respondents in April 2020 reporting that they felt “lonely”, “very nervous”, or “downhearted or depressed” was higher for women than for men. For example, for female respondents, almost four in ten (38.6%) reported that they felt “downhearted or depressed” at least some of the time in the four-week period prior to interview compared with just over one in four (26.0%) of male respondents.
There is evidence suggesting an association between psychological distress and changes in alcohol, tobacco and junk food consumption.
A comparison of men and women’s responses to questions on changes in consumption behaviour since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions, shows that more women than men reported an increase in alcohol consumption (23.4% and 20.9% respectively), however a much higher proportion of male respondents (26.0%) reported a decrease in alcohol consumption compared with females (8.6%).
More than one third (34.7%) of women that consume tobacco products reported that their consumption had increased since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions compared with one in four men (26.2%). Fewer women reported a decrease (7.1%) compared with 10.2% of men.
More women reported an increased consumption of junk food and sweets when compared with men (54.3% and 35.6% respectively). Women were also far less likely to report a reduction in junk food consumption. More than double the proportion of male respondents to females said their consumption of junk food and sweets had “Decreased” since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions (17.0% versus 7.9%).
Of those who are new to working from home, almost half (48.6%) of female respondents reported that they would like to return to their place of work after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, compared to less than one in three (31.7%) of male respondents. Male respondents were more likely to report wanting a mixture of working from home and at their place of work (60.9%) when compared with female respondents (43.9%).
This difference in preference of working arrangements may be partly explained by some findings from "The Employment and Life effects of COVID-19" survey published by the CSO on 13 May 2020. It found that more women (21%) than men (15%) are caring for a dependent family member or friend because of the COVID-19 crisis. It also found that women are more likely to report childcare issues related to the COVID-19 crisis (9% women compared with 6% men) and women are finding it more difficult to work from home because of family being around (11% women compared with 9% men). The difference in preference of working arrangements may be also explained by the finding that the percentage of women “Extremely” concerned about maintaining social ties was double the male rate (10.9% compared with 5.4%).
On the issue of compliance, the "Social Impact of COVID-19" survey found that both men and women’s compliance levels with the government’s current advice and guidelines regarding COVID-19 rose with the degree of concern for their own or somebody else’s health. For example, 84.2% of female respondents who were “Not at all” concerned for their own health rated their compliance as “High”. This percentage rose to 94.5% for women that were “Extremely” concerned for their own health. Less than four in ten (58.8%) men who were “Not at all” concerned for their own health rated their compliance as “High”. This percentage rose to 80.4% for men that were “Extremely” concerned for their own health.
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