Lock-down was a necessity and crucial for preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, it had widespread impact on depression and food insecurity among women with an added increase in India and other developing countries.
A latest study from the University of California San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy finds that women’s social position determines the level of distress. Those with daughters and those living in female-headed households experienced even larger declines in mental health as a result of lockdowns.
The paper to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Economic Development held the survey in 1,545 households over the phone. They held the survey in rural regions throughout Northern India. The surveys happened in fall 2019, before the pandemic and in August 2020, near the height of the first COVID-19 wave in India. For surveyed women, moving from zero to average levels of lockdowns is associated with a 38 percent increase in depression a 44 percent increase in anxiety and at a percent increase in exhaustion.
Study co author Gaurav Khanna said that not having access to work and socialization outside the home could be very detrimental for women’s mental in developing countries. Khanna is an assistant professor of economics at the School of Global Policy and Strategy.
EFFECT ON WOMEN
The authors also noted that the pandemic led to the dramatic loss of income for women. In the survey roughly 25 percent of households reduced the number of meals consumed, compared to a normal month. However, these declines primarily impacted women because in many cultures throughout the developing world, Women’s food intake is the first be limited when food is scarce. “We wanted to know the impact lockdown policies have on women in lower-income countries where there may be limited social safety nets to absorb these shocks,” Khanna added. “As we found in our study, the consequences of lockdown policies are exacerbated for women. We hope policymakers in developing countries and beyond know what the implications are for these policies, especially for those in vulnerable positions because if there is another wave, the communities could be faced with similar lockdowns.”
The paper outlines policy recommendations that could help address the mental and physical health consequences experienced by women during the pandemic. “Policymakers should consider what supportive measures are necessary to limit economic devastation from lockdowns and they should target aid, particularly access to food, to vulnerable households and women,” the authors note. For example, in certain parts of India, the government did distribute food to rural areas, which helped prevent malnutrition and food insecurity. Counselling and helpline services offered over-the-phone can also help address the pandemic’s mental health impacts, the authors said. While the findings focus on the developing world, they have implications for women all over the world who experience lockdowns.
“We suspect the impact in the U.S. on women and mothers in particular was also exacerbated,” Khanna said. “When kids are not in school, or daycare, the burden usually falls on women because of traditional gender roles with child care. Policymakers should be cognizant of the fact that women are going to be impacted differently by these policies.”
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