January 27, 2022
January 26, 2022
COVID-19 Disproportionately Affects Women’s Mental Health
COVID-19 has exposed insecure relationships, cost jobs and careers, emphasized financial stress, and increased domestic violence rates in Canada.
COVID-19 & Women’s Mental Health
The COVID-19 outbreak has threatened more than our physical health. With the disruption to everyday life as we know it, various studies show that our mental health is suffering — and that’s on top of the global mental health crisis that predates COVID-19. The fact is, the pandemic has certainly not made certain ailments better, especially for women’s mental health issues.
For many, lockdowns have upended lives entirely by exposing the wounds of insecure relationships, costing jobs and careers, emphasizing financial stress, and putting people at risk of abuse (whether between intimate partners, with substances, or against oneself).
While some are learning to embrace the changes, the reality isn’t so simple for many people who need the hope in normalcy — a return to an un-socially-distanced world — in order to balance the mental weight caused by the pandemic.
Of course, everyone feels the effects of the pandemic, but some more than others. Here, we’ll explore some women’s mental health statistics that reflect the toll of factors associated with COVID-19.
The Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Women
Studies show that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women compared to men across various settings, including the workplace and at home. When squaring up against a pandemic, women were already at a disadvantage due to various mental health and societal factors.
Like what, you ask?
Prior to COVID-19, researchers reported that women were four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with recurrent depressive episodes.
When it comes to pandemics, an international study claims that “women have a higher prevalence of risk factors known to intensify during a pandemic, including chronic environmental strain, preexisting depressive and anxiety disorders, and domestic violence.” So, walking into COVID-19, it’s not surprising that women would experience more pronounced mental health effects.
On top of predispositions to certain mental health challenges, the pressures associated with roles and expectations have only intensified under the weight of COVID-19.
With more people at home, relationships are ending, and domestic violence is at an all-time high. While domestic abuse happens to men and occurs within same‐sex relationships, women are disproportionately affected, with calls to the Vancouver Battered Women’s Support Services tripling, specialized crisis lines for IPV in Alberta seeing a 30%–50% increase in calls, and police departments in Ontario reporting a 22% increase in domestic incidents and sexual assault reports. Nearly twice as many women (10%) than men (6%) reported concerns of possible violence at home, growing to 12% of women and 8% of men aged 15-24. With an increase in gender-based violence in Canada, and with more people working from home, it’s important to recognize distress signals.
A US study showed a 7.5% increase in domestic violence reports over the first two months of the pandemic; however, police claim that abuse often occurs several times before a complaint is made. As lockdowns persist, many women are isolated with their abusers.
Additionally, 2020 became the year that homeschooling lost its stigma. With school closures, parents were left scrambling to balance work life and supervision. Around 64% of women reported they were mostly responsible for homeschooling their children, compared to 19% of men. This added responsibility has likely contributed to the growing stress of being at home, reported by 31% of women.
According to the Canadian Government, women made up 75% Canadian educators in public elementary and secondary schools and 87% of registered nurses between March-May 2020. These occupations are suggested to put women at a higher risk of exposure to the virus, not to mention job fatigue, and burnout. There’s also growing awareness of the poor treatment endured by healthcare workers, despite the heroic work they’ve conducted throughout the pandemic.
In terms of job loss, and due to the vulnerability of frequented employment types and industries, the women’s employment declined more (7%) compared to men (4%) in the early months of the pandemic. From March 2020 to February 2021, women were disproportionately affected by employment losses, accounting for 62.5% of losses in March 2020 and 53.7% of year-over-year employment losses.
An international survey addressing mental health and COVID-19 showed mental health was reportedly negatively impacted by salary cuts for 42% of women, compared to 28% of men.
Access to Healthcare
The peaks of the pandemic lockdowns created barriers for women’s healthcare, driving up the anxiety around receiving reproductive care and accessing contraceptives. Childbirth, an already stressful and emotional process, has evoked more fears and stress due to the unsure effects of COVID-19 on developing fetuses.
With hospital emergency rooms overloaded with COVID-19 patients, people seeking non-COVID related care (including pregnant women) have had the pressure of planning and anticipating access to healthcare services while facing the risk of being exposed while in care.
As the world continues to adapt to new norms, we must maintain our prioritization of mental health. The pandemic exposed that mental health is more vulnerable than anyone expected, especially when the comfort of one’s own home becomes a battlefield for families or individuals pitted against themselves.
An important but often widely under-acknowledged part of women’s health is sexual health. For women experiencing issues with sexual desire, confinement of COVID-19 lockdowns may have increased pressures within intimate relationships. Women experiencing issues with desire are already prone to feelings anxiety and depression — then consider the pressure to perform sexually more often, plus other lockdown-related relationship strains.
The Desire Project aims to identify solutions for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), a condition that affects roughly 9.5 million premenopausal women in the US alone. Learn more about the connection between women’s mental and sexual health, as well as the psychedelic solutions being researched.