- Women are more likely to experience depression due to COVID-19: Experts
- We need to encourage women to talk more about their stress: Experts
- Women are more concerned about lack of food at home than men: Study
New Delhi: Anxiety, stress seem to be an integral part of the new normal of COVID-19 pandemic given the economic distress, isolation and the fear of contracting the virus. Experts say that across the world during the last nine months of the pandemic and about six months of governments across countries restricting the movement of the people in order to slow down the transmission of the infection has impacted the mental health of people. A new study conducted by CARE, a non-profit international aid organization based in Geneva, Switzerland has revealed that the pandemic has affected the mental health of women three times more than men. The orgainsation spoke with over 10,000 people across the globe about what they are worried about and how they are dealing with challenges of COVID-19. CARE found that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on women’s mental health.
The study surveyed 6,200 women and 4,000 men in 38 countries in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. The major findings of the study are as follows:
– Three key areas of difference between the genders during the pandemic – mental health, food and jobs
– About 27 per cent of women had reported an increase in challenges in relation to mental illness while 10 per cent of men experienced the same
– The unpaid labour in the house had increased exponentially in many cases which has led to stress about food, work and healthcare
– In many developing countries, the entire childcare burden is on women
– Women were also almost twice as likely to report that accessing quality healthcare services that they needed had been harder during the pandemic
– 55 per cent of women said that they had experienced some sort of income loss in relation to COVID-19 while about 34 per cent men have reported the same
– 41 per cent women said they were concerned about a lack of food compared to 30 per cent of men
According to CARE, women are more likely to work part-time or in the informal sector because of which they have suffered a loss of work.
Talking about the research, Director of Knowledge Management at CARE and lead author of the report Emily Janoch said,
Six months ago, CARE sounded the alarm that the global health crisis would only widen the gender gap and reverse decades of progress across women’s health, nutrition and economic stability. And after six months of listening to women and capturing their stories, our alarm bell is ringing louder than ever. Our data must be a call to action for the entire global community to mount a more effective and equitable response to Covid-19.
According to Shumita Kakkar, Founder, United We Care, an online counselling and therapy start-up, when a woman undergoes challenges, she tries to tell herself that things will become fine and keeps motivating herself. The stress that she tries to ignore then turns into anxiety and depression and may also lead to suicidal tendencies, added Ms. Kakkar. While commenting on the findings of the study done by CARE, she said,
COVID-19 has unleashed a mental health crisis for women around the world, as found by the study. It is pretty much evident even around us, if we try to listen to women or observe them. Women, in the study have cited concerns around maintaining income, struggles to eat and access healthcare and increased caring responsibilities as driving factors behind the mental health issue. We at United We Care, that has a network of about 300 experts, found that women in India are also suffering a great deal of mental and physical abuse and relationship issues with their husbands and partners. We have been getting an increasing number of calls from both men and women and the positive part of this is that women have started addressing their mental health issues and concerns which is largely considered as taboo in many societies. Women in rural areas, however, are still far from accessing the help they need.
Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant, Women’s Health and Holistic Wellness Medical Advisor, Medtalks.in and Country Chairperson for Women’s Holistic Health & Wellness, All Ladies League highlighted that while adjusting to the ‘new normal’, women are experiencing exhaustion, irritability, disturbed sleep, appetite disturbances, souring of relationships, a feeling of helplessness, anxiety and depression, as well as severe mental illness and substance misuse. She said,
For most, these symptoms are mild and transitory, but a minority may develop severe mental health issues that require additional mental health support. As someone who looks at wellness holistically, I find mental health the most neglected area, COVID or no COVID. The figures are startling-women suffer twice as much as men from stress, anxiety and depression which are a fertile ground for mental illnesses to grow. In India the overall incidence of depression in the general population due to COVID has almost doubled and has impacted the women definitely more.
Dr. Aggarwal suggested that in order to fight anxiety, women are required to take charge of their own health physically, mentally and socially. She recommends women to take up breathing exercises and meditation. She also advises women to regulate their sleep and eating times and learn to delegate responsibilities at home and at work. If everything seems to fail, taking the help of a mental health professional should be the next step without any shame or hesitation, she asserted.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.