The measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 has had a profound effect on our relationships and how we engage with other people, a core aspect of our wellbeing.
Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants, community venues and theatres were all closed. Sporting and music events were cancelled, and most aspects of social life put on hold.
We have been looking through studies and surveys that have been conducted in recent months to show where wellbeing impacts have been evident. These have found that people have been affected by:
The ONS also identify renting, being single, and overall poor health are also risk factors for loneliness.
Since March, being a student is a higher risk factor for becoming lonely than usual. Surveys find that children and young people in particular are increasingly lonely, with more than one in five pupils in years 12 and 13 feeling lonely ‘very often’. In contrast, the people who were the least lonely at the start of the pandemic, have become even less lonely.
- Domestic violence: The intensity of lockdown within households has resulted in an increase in demand for domestic abuse helplines, particularly from women. At the same time, services have been curtailed. There have been gaps in the provision of services particularly for migrant, Black, Asian, or minority ethnic women or women with disabilities. The mental health of young people in these homes is also a growing concern.
- Adverse partner relationships: As the incidence of relationship stressors, such as job losses or health concerns have increased, people in challenging relationships have faced increased pressure.
- Single people have also reported having less sex than usual.
- Disabled women are slightly more likely to say that their relationship has been strained, compared to non-disabled women
- Closer family and home ties: Not all outcomes have been bad for our wellbeing. More than a quarter of parents, and particularly mothers, and those working from home, said that their relationship with their children had improved under lockdown. Of the 46% of UK adults that said that some aspects of their life were better under lockdown, more than half attributed this to spending more time with those that they lived with.
- Secondary students with higher overall life satisfaction were less likely to experience loneliness, compared with other factors.
Why this matters for wellbeing
We know that close relationships and having someone to rely on – whether with partners, family members or friends – are very important for how we feel about our lives overall. Nurturing these relationships is important for our overall wellbeing. This is particularly the case when facing uncertainty in other areas of our lives, such as with our health or employment.
Frequent and intense arguments at home, not only make us feel bad in the moment, but can also have long-term effects, particularly on the wellbeing of children.
Feeling lonely is strongly associated with reporting high anxiety and has been linked directly to poor physical and mental health.The loneliest people feel the least able to cope and recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
The inequalities exposed and exacerbated
Not having the quantity and quality of relationships that we would want can directly affect our wellbeing, but people that are lonely also share many characteristics also associated with low wellbeing. This includes poor health and being unemployed, and compounds the negative wellbeing impacts they may have experienced.
This series will look into how different people have been affected by Covid-19 and the associated policy response, across all areas of life that are important for our wellbeing.
It will identify the people, groups and areas most at risk of negative impacts, as well as where people feel that their lives have improved in some way. This helps us to understand the multiple ways in which an individual or community can be affected. We also need to consider the intersecting identities and characteristics that that can put us at risk of low wellbeing, loneliness, and other negative impacts in multiple ways.
We are continuing to collect evidence on how people have been affected and invite more contributions here, and are using this to build an overall picture of the unequal impact of Covid-19 on wellbeing in the UK.