07 February 2022

Daniela Bianco
COVID-19 and mental health: the impacts on women

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the people's mental well-being across all age groups; yet, women are the most affected.

According to a recent research carried out by the University of Essex, the number of pregnant women have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety has more than doubled from April 2020 to January 2021. The negative effects of the pandemic on mental health have been highlighted by numerous studies: young people, the elderly and women are the most affected categories. Interruption of school, sports and recreational activities, loss of jobs, worsening economic conditions, and social isolation, are just some of the factors that have led to a deterioration.

As for women, the repercussions have been especially dramatic: 50% of them reported that lockdowns have had a very negative impact on their lives and 83% reported a worsening of their depression. Men have been reportedly less affected: only 37% have experienced severe impacts on their mental well-being, and among these only 36% complain of exacerbated depressive symptoms.

At the workplace, one in three women says that they work more than before and that they cannot maintain a sound work-life balance. They also represent almost all the newly unemployed in Italy (990,00 out of 101,000). The negative effects are not only found in the workplace, but are also a matter of personal safety. Isolation, forced cohabitation and socio-economic instability have caused a significant increase in domestic violence in Italy and throughout Europe, with a dramatic increase in calls to the Centers against domestic violence (+119.6%) compared to 2019.

In Italy, the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) has promoted the creation of a network of consulting, territorial and hospital services to intercept and take charge of requests for support from women with anxiety symptoms, depression and psychological discomfort in pregnancy and after childbirth. In addition, it started collecting data and information on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of pregnant women or women with a child up to six months of age. Other interventions are being discussed at government level in the country.

The European House - Ambrosetti brings forward the commitment started with Headway2023, the initiative on mental health implemented in partnership with Angelini Pharma, launched in 2017 with the aim of strengthening and improving healthcare models for people with mental disorders in Europe and Italy. A holistic approach to mental health, ranging from healthcare to work and social issues, is essential for establishing effective intervention policies and building joint action.

In 2021, the "Headway 2023" working group developed an analysis ("Headway2023 - Mental Health Index") to investigate mental health from multiple points of view in the 27 EU countries and the UK. The study was conducted with a broad approach, not limited to exploring the issues from a clinical point of view, but rather extended to other contexts, such as society, and the education and work environments, these being cornerstones in which to ensure the implementation of programmes for mental health.

To learn more about mental health, visit Headway 2023's website

Read here about the research by the University of Essex