Pandemic hits mental health of women and young people hardest, survey finds

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

Survey also finds adults aged 18-24 and women more concerned about personal finances than other groups


Young people and women have taken the hardest psychological and financial hit from the pandemic, a YouGov survey has found – but few people anywhere are considering changing their lives as a result of it.

The annual YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project found that in many of the 27 countries surveyed, young people were consistently more likely than their elders to feel the Covid crisis had made their financial and mental health concerns worse.

In France, nearly half (47%) of people aged 18 to 24 said the pandemic had taken a toll on their mental health, against only a quarter (25%) of those 55 or older, with many other countries in Europe and around the world showing a strikingly similar picture.

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In Germany 38% of young people said Covid had been bad for their mental health compared with 22% of older adults. In Sweden the splits were 42% to 19%, in Spain and Italy 51% to 39%, Britain 50% to 25%, Australia 51% to 28% and in Mexico 41% to 18%.

Comparable proportions of young and older people said they were worrying more about money as a result of the pandemic, while across several measures, women were also consistently more likely than men to report a negative impact from crisis.

Women in many countries reported being more concerned about personal finances, mental health and work stress than men, with 55% in Britain saying their professional life was more stressful compared to 36% of men, and 42% compared to 60% in Spain.

Only small portions of the total population in northern Europe and the English-speaking west said the pandemic had hit their personal finances: 27% in France, 24% in Germany (24%), 15% in Sweden, 22% in the UK, 29% in Australia and 27% in the US.

Consistently larger numbers, however, said the same elsewhere, including Spain (40%), Italy (43%), Greece (50%), Hungary (46%) and Poland (38%), and even more in countries such as Brazil (54%), Thailand (68%), Kenya (75%), and South Africa (59%).

A similar geographic split was clear when people were asked if the pandemic had made people them worry more about money: 70% or more in Greece, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Kenya and South Africa, again with a third or less in the UK (31%), Sweden (24%) and Denmark (15%).

Other aspects of life told a similar story. People in Spain (44%), Italy (47%) and Greece (58%) were more likely to say the pandemic had taken a negative toll on their mental health, as were those in Brazil (46%), Japan (45%) and Thailand (61%).

People in Mediterranean countries – 41% in Spain, 50% in Italy and 61% in Greece – were again more likely to say the pandemic had blighted their plans for the future, with Turkey (51%), Thailand (57%) and South Africa (51%) also high.

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Optimism about the future was, however, highest outside Europe, with Brazil (63%), Mexico (57%), Egypt (55%), Saudi Arabia (70%), India (61%), Indonesia (73%), Kenya (81%), Nigeria (88%) and South Africa (63%) all recording high levels.

In mainland Europe, about a third or less said they felt optimistic about their personal future: from France (29%) and Germany (34%) to Spain (34%) Italy (27%), Greece (24%), Hungry (34%), and Poland (32%). Britain, Australia, the US and Canada were slightly more upbeat on 42%, 45%, 43% and 44%.

Contrary to many predictions made in the early stages of the pandemic, the survey also showed that for most people around the world, Covid-19 had not dramatiaclly altered their life choices or lifestyles, such as working from home.

Among employees in roles where home-working was feasible, by far the larger portion in most countries surveyed said they would ideally choose to work from home just some of the time or not at all, rather than “most of the time” or “the whole time”.

Asked if the pandemic had prompted them to make or seriously consider major life changes such as moving to another area or country, changing career or separating from a partner, a consistently small percentage around the world said it had.

In a majority of cases, the figures were in single digits or barely larger: 10% or less said they had decided to move to a different part of the country in France (7%), Germany (7%), Denmark (4%), Italy (8%), Greece (10%), Hungary (5%), Poland (6%), Britain (4%), Australia (8%), the US (9%) and Canada (7%).

The figures for each type of change were generally higher in the non-western world: around one in five had changed career as a result of coronavirus in South Africa (21%), Kenya (20%), Thailand (19%), Saudi Arabia (22%), and Brazil (22%).

Other measures similarly painted a generally undramatic picture of most people mainly carrying on with life. Asked, for example, if they now sleep, exercise, drink or eat healthily more or less than before the pandemic, most people reported no overall change.

The survey also found that the pandemic had had a more beneficial effect on relationships with close family and partners than with those with friends, colleagues or neighbours, with only tiny minorities around the world tending to report the crisis had made relationships “less close” with partners or offspring.

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