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What does all the evidence tell us about wellbeing impacts of Covid-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a major health crisis, infecting more than 35 million people world wide, with one million people dying as of October, more than 40,000 in the UK. The initial UK policy response to “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” sought primarily to contain the virus. And Covid-related policies, guidance and behaviours have resulted in changes to our personal, economic and social lives that have been extensive, profound and unprecedented. 

We have been collecting evidence on how our lives have changed and organising this evidence into a wellbeing framework that identifies the factors we know to be important for how we feel about our lives. 

Over the past eight weeks we have summarised how Covid-19 has affected different aspects of our wellbeing and in turn impacted the wellbeing of different groups of people in different ways.

This evidence and analysis provides new insights into the wellbeing impacts of Covid-19 and wellbeing inequalities in the UK.

What does the evidence tell us about wellbeing impacts?

Cumulative effects: specific groups have been at risk of multiple negative impacts

Evidence finds that people from different ethnic minorities are more vulnerable to the more serious health consequences of the virus, including death. But they are also more at risk of:

When we were all told to stay home during the strictest period of lockdown, Black people in England were nearly four times as likely as white people to be stuck indoors, with no outdoor space at home.

The headlines over the summer months highlighted the confusion and disruption to young people who were due to take GCSEs and A levels this year. But the impact to young people has gone well beyond a disruption to education

Young people have felt more lonely, as social lives were moved online, and were more likely than other groups to experience an increase in mental distress. Young people have been most likely to lose their jobs, the only group where employment rates have already significantly dropped, with future job prospects bleak for those just entering the labour market.   


Intersectionality: wellbeing impacts may be compounded for individuals included in several different at risk groups

We know that compounding factors can make an individual more vulnerable to the more serious health consequences of the virus. Being male, and aged over 70, and with a pre-existing respiratory condition, and from an ethnic minority puts an individual at more risk than being a man who has none of the other characteristics.

Similarly, as this collection of evidence shows, working in the hospitality sector, as a woman with children, on a low income would put such an individual at a high risk of losing her job. These circumstances would also put her at increased risk of mental ill health, and her children will have been more likely to have struggled with homeschooling. This helps us to understand the complexity of people’s lives and the different wellbeing risks they are exposed to. This can lead to more specific and effective policy and community responses

Inequalities: people’s experiences have been different depending on circumstances 

Not all experiences have been negative. Some people have seen their income fall due to: the closure of their business; reduction in hours; furlough; or job losses. Yet other people in secure work - where they could work from home - may have seen their financial situation improve, spending less money on commuting and recreation.

Social distancing and social isolation for people living alone, or with existing mental health issues, has increased loneliness. For others, spending time with partners and young children in the home has been a positive experience, where relationships have been strengthened

The cumulative and compounding impacts on people, both positive and negative, highlight how unequal people’s wellbeing is in the UK and how Covid-19 may have exacerbated these differences.  


How can this evidence shape a wellbeing-based recovery?


A wellbeing approach can help us to understand how people have been affected overall, who has been affected in what ways, the impact that different policies have had on different people’s wellbeing and how policies can be designed to maximise wellbeing under complex circumstances. 

Wellbeing is ‘how we are doing’ as individuals and communities, now and in the future, providing a shared vision for measuring progress and success. It’s about:

  • The external conditions, environmental factors and experiences that affect our lives (drivers)

  • Our personal capacity and response in terms of resources, feelings and emotions (psychological wellbeing)

  • The collective and shared wellbeing of communities (social capital, sustainability)

A wellbeing-based recovery would identify and target interventions towards people with the lowest wellbeing, looking across the issues affecting their lives. Mapping the evidence of impacts using a wellbeing framework can provide the basis for identifying priorities. It shows the risk and protective factors and aspects to people’s wellbeing that have been negatively affected, and which policy can most usefully address. 

Bringing it all together: using a matrix

At the Centre, we have used the crowdsourced data to create a simple matrix. It is an early iteration that we will refine and improve, but it provides an example of how it’s possible to take into account the breadth of wellbeing impacts for different people. If you have used a different approach, or have any suggestions to develop this matrix, please get in touch by replying to this email.

View the matrix

As jobs are at risk from the economic downturn forecast, and as a major driver of our wellbeing, jobs are rightly commanding much attention from policy makers. But it is also critical that policy makers address broader financial concerns, mental health risks and the quality of our relationships and communities, including for children and young people, who have felt the impact beyond the disruption to their education.

This evidence has also identified factors that have been protective for people’s wellbeing that can be invested in, such as living in supportive and cohesive homes and communities.

Measures and Resources

Resources to use

If you’d like to discuss maximising the wellbeing impact of your recovery activity, you can  contact our Local Government & Health Lead, Joanne Smithson, by replying to this email. You can also email her at

This email series has ended, but you can still get more evidence and insight...

We will continue to develop our findings on wellbeing inequality and Covid-19, you can sign up to our general weekly email alert for new evidence as it is published. 

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