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For more information on this release:
E-mail: icw@cso.ie Claire Burke (+353) 21 453 5046 Gerry Reilly (+353) 21 453 5700
For general information on CSO statistics:
information@cso.ie (+353) 21 453 5000 On-line ISSN

This release has been compiled during the COVID-19 crisis. The results contained in this release reflect some of the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 situation. For further information see Background Notes.

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Social Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Men

April 2020

Social Impact of Covid-19 on Women and Men, April 2020
%
 MaleFemale
Extremely Concerned Somebody else's Health20.127.6
Low Overall Life Satisfaction 22.136.7
Increased Tobacco Consumption26.234.7
High Compliance with Government Advise72.588.4

Women report lower overall life satisfaction than men in April 2020

PNG Headline Graph Low Overall Life Satisfaction by Gender and Reference Period
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Results from the CSO’s Social Impact of COVID-19 survey, April 2020, were published on 8th May and provide an insight into the impact COVID-19 has had on people in Ireland. The survey covered topics such as well-being, personal concerns, consumption, working life and compliance with official COVID-19 advice. This publication presents results from the survey broken down by sex and illustrates how women and men have been impacted differently by COVID-19. Some main results include:

  • Of female respondents, 36.7% rated their overall life satisfaction as Low in April 2020, an increase from 9% in 2018.  This compares to 22.1% of male respondents in April 2020 who rated the overall life satisfaction as Low, which has increased from 8.4% in 2018.
  • More women reported they were Extremely concerned with somebody else’s health compared to men (27.6% women and 20.1% men).
  • Of those who consume tobacco, 34.7% of women Increased their tobacco consumption since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, compared to 26.2% of men. 
  • Women reported being more compliant with Government COVID-19 advice, with 88.4% reporting High compliance, compared to 72.5% of men.

Women more likely to report being Extremely concerned about their own health

Respondents were asked how concerned they were about certain impacts of COVID-19 and could answer “Not at all”, “Somewhat”, “Very” or “Extremely” for each of the following impacts of COVID-19;

  1. Their own health
  2. Somebody else's health (e.g. friend or relative)
  3. Maintaining social ties
  4. Impact of interrupted education

Similar percentages of male and female respondents reported that they were Extremely concerned about the impact of interrupted education (14.6% and 13.5% respectively). However, female respondents were more likely to report being Extremely concerned about their own health, somebody else’s health and maintaining social ties than male respondents. For example, over one in four (27.6%) women were Extremely concerned about somebody else’s health, compared to one in five (20.1%) men and the percentage of women Extremely concerned about maintaining social ties was double the male rate (10.9% compared with 5.4%).

For further information see Personal Concerns chapter of Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey.

X-axis labelMaleFemale
Interrupted education14.613.5
Maintaining social ties5.410.9
Somebody else's Health20.127.6
Own Health6.39.7

Women report lower overall life satisfaction than men in April 2020

Evidence from recently published studies on mental health concerns related to COVID-19 suggests that symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress are common psychological reactions to the COVID-19 crisis (Rajkumar 2020).

Results from the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey show that well-being has been negatively affected since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.  Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction levels with various aspects of their lives (overall life satisfaction, satisfaction with the financial situation of their households, and satisfaction with personal relationships) on a scale from 0 (‘Not at all satisfied’) to 10 (‘Completely satisfied’).  Responses were grouped as Low (0-5), Medium (6-8), or High (9-10).  The well-being scores for male and female respondents are compared below with well-being statistics from 2018 and 2013, as collected by the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC).

In 2018, the percentages of men and women reporting Low satisfaction scores were similar.  In April 2020 however, there was a greater increase in the percentage of female respondents reporting Low satisfaction. 

In both 2013 and 2018 just over 5% of male respondents and 4% of female respondents rated their satisfaction with their personal relationships as Low, this has increased to 14.3% for males and 18.4% for females, in April 2020.

In April 2020, more than one in three (36.7%) female respondents had a Low satisfaction score for overall life, up from approximately one in ten females (9.0%) in 2018. The percentage of males reporting Low satisfaction rose from 8.4% to 22.1% in the same period.

X-axis labelMaleFemale
Low Satisfaction with Personal Relationships14.318.4
Low Satisfaction with Financial Situation22.727.2
Low Overall Life Satisfaction22.136.7

Women more likely to report feeling, ‘very nervous’, ‘downhearted or depressed’ or 'lonely'

Respondents were asked how often they had felt ‘happy’, ‘very nervous’, ‘downhearted or depressed’ or 'lonely' in the four weeks prior to interview. Respondents could answer as follows: ‘None of the time’, ‘A little of the time’, ‘Some of the time’, ‘Most of the time’, or ‘All of the time’.

Female respondents were more likely to report that they felt, ‘very nervous’, ‘downhearted or depressed’ or 'lonely' in the four weeks prior to interview.  In April 2020, 77.3% of female respondents reported feeling very nervous At least a little of the time in the past four weeks, compared to 61.3% of male respondents.

The proportion of respondents that felt downhearted or depressed At least a little of the time in the past four weeks has doubled since 2018.  In 2013, 44% of male respondents reported feeling downhearted or depressed At least a little of the time in the four weeks prior to interview, declining to 33.2% in 2018, and increasing to 75.8% in April 2020.  The corresponding figures for female respondents are 51% in 2013, declining to 40.7% in 2018, increasing to 82.6% in April 2020.

X-axis labelAll/most/some of the timeA little of the timeNone of the time
April 2020 - Male2649.924.2
April 2020 - Female38.64417.4
2018 - Male1122.266.8
2018 - Female15.72559.3
2013 - Male19.524.456
2013 - Female22.928.149

Both women and men reported feeling lonelier than in 2018.  In 2018, 32.5% of male respondents reported feeling lonely At least a little of the time in the past four weeks, increasing to 51.4% in April 2020.  The corresponding figures for female respondents were 41.2% in 2018, rising to 66% in April 2020.

In April 2020, male respondents were more likely to report feeling happy All or most of the time in the past four weeks, at 66% compared to 58.3% of women.

For further information see Well-Being chapter of Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey.

More women working from home, in households with children, feel very nervous

The Social Impacts of COVID-19 survey found that of those working from home, in households with children, a higher proportion of women reported feeling very nervous At least some of the time (34.4%) compared to 22.2% of men.  Conversely, of those working from home, 37.6% of men in households with no children reported being very nervous At least some of the time, compared to 19.9% of women.

The CSO’s Employment and Life effects of COVID-19 release reported that women are more likely to report COVID-19 related childcare issues than men (9% compared to 6%). More women (21%) than men (15%) are caring for a dependent family member or friend because of the COVID-19 crisis and a higher percentage of women are finding it more difficult to work from home with family around than men (11% compared to 9%). This supports the idea that women in households with children who are working from home are feeling more nervous than their male counterparts, partly due to the additional responsibilities they undertake.

As a possible consequence of these additional commitments, the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey found that of those who are new to working from home, almost half (48.6%) of women reported that they would like to return to their place of work after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, this compares to less than one in three (31.7%) of male respondents.  This difference in preference of working arrangements may also be explained by the finding that the percentage of women Extremely concerned about maintain social ties was double the male rate (10.9% compared with 5.4%).

 

X-axis labelMaleFemale
Remain working from home6.66.9
Return to place of work31.748.6
Mixture of both60.943.9

More women have increased their consumption of alcohol, tobacco and junk food than men

There is epidemiological evidence suggesting an association between psychological distress and changes in alcohol, tobacco and junk food consumption.  For further information see Harvard School of Medicine  (Why stress causes people to overeat)US National Library of Medicine (Psychological distress is associated with tobacco smoking and quitting behaviour in the Australian population: evidence from national cross-sectional surveys) and  US National Library of Medicine  (Association of alcohol use and loneliness frequency among middle-aged and older adult drinkers). 

Results from the Social Impacts of COVID-19 survey show that female respondents had increased their consumption of alcohol, tobacco, junk food and sweets to a greater extent than men. 

The Social Impacts of COVID-19 survey respondents were asked how, if at all, their behaviour in relation to each of the following had changed since the COVID-19 restrictions were introduced:

  • The consumption of 
    • Alcohol
    • Tobacco
    • Junk food and sweets
    • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Frequency exercising
  • Time spent
    • Watching TV
    • On the internet

Respondents could answer “Increased”, “Decreased”, “No change” to the above and could also indicate that they did not partake in the behaviour.

Alcohol

Slightly more male than female respondents reported that they consume alcohol, 81.5% and 79.8% respectively.  Looking only at those that consume alcohol, the percentage of male and female respondents reporting an increase in their alcohol consumption since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions were similar, at 20.9% and 23.4% respectively.  However, a much higher proportion of male respondents (26.0%) reported a decrease in alcohol consumption compared to females (8.6%).

Tobacco

The percentage of male and female respondents that said they consume tobacco was nearly identical, 25.9% and 26.0% respectively. Of those that consume tobacco, more than one third (34.7%) of women reported that their consumption of tobacco had Increased since COVID-19 restrictions compared to one in four (26.2%) men. Just over one in ten (10.2%) men said that their consumption had Decreased compared to one in fourteen (7.1%) women.

Junk Food and Sweets

More female respondents (92.5%) reported eating junk food and sweets compared to male respondents (88.4%). Women were considerably more likely to increase consumption of junk food and sweets since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions when compared to men (54.3% compared to 35.6%). More than double the proportion of male respondents to females said their consumption of junk food and sweets had Decreased since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions (17.0% versus 7.9%).

Exercise

Participation in exercise was slightly higher for male than female respondents, 96.1% and 94.5% respectively. Of those that exercise, male respondents were relatively evenly split – almost one third (33.0%) said their frequency of exercise had Increased, approximately one third (34.5%) said it had Decreased and just under one third (32.6%) said there was No change since COVID-19 restrictions. More (41.1%) female respondents said their exercise had Increased, 31.9% said it had Decreased and 27.0% reported No change over the same period.

For further information see Changes in Consumption chapter of Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey.

X-axis labelMale increaseFemale increaseMale decreaseFemale decrease
Junk Food and Sweets35.654.3-17-7.9
Exercise3341.1-34.5-31.9
Tobacco26.234.7-10.2-7.1
Alcohol20.923.4-26-8.6

Women more compliant with Government advice than men

Survey respondents were asked to rate, on a scale from 0 (‘Not at all’) to 10 (‘Entirely’), the extent they were following the government’s current advice and guidelines regarding COVID-19. Responses were grouped as Low (0-5), Medium (6-8), or High (9-10).

The mean score for compliance with current government advice and guidelines was 9.0 and 9.4 for  male and female respondents respectively.  Over 88% of female respondents rated their compliance as High and 11.4% as Medium.  Comparable figures for male respondents were 72.5% and 25.8% respectively. 

Analysis of results shows that compliance is influenced by concerns for health, whether it be for own health or someone else’s.  Nearly 95% of women that said they were extremely concerned for their own health and almost 90% that said they were extremely concerned for someone else’s health rated their compliance as High. The percentages of men with the same level of concerns rating their compliance as High were 80.4% and 73.5% respectively. Women who were not at all concerned for their own health reported being more compliant than men who were extremely concerned for their own health.  Over 84% of female respondents that were not at all concerned for their own health rated their compliance as High. The comparable figure for male respondents that were extremely concerned for their own health was 80.4%.  Less than six in ten (58.8%) men who were not at all concerned for their own health rated their compliance as High. 

For further information see Other Social Impact chapter of Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey.

X-axis labelLow (0-5)Medium (6-8)High (9-10)
Male1.725.872.5
Female0.211.488.4

Background Notes

Purpose of the Survey and Reference Period

A questionnaire on the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey was conducted by the CSO between Thursday 23 April and Friday 1st May. Most individuals selected received a letter and/or an email from the CSO and were asked to complete the questionnaire online, while some were contacted via telephone. The questionnaire asked for information on the following topics:

  • Personal well-being
  • Concerns about the impact of COVID-19
  • Changes in consumption since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions
  • Labour market activity, working arrangements and financial impact of COVID-19
  • Compliance with official advice and other social topics

Sample Selection

The sample for the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey was generated from Labour Force Survey (LFS) respondents in Q1 2019 that agreed to be contacted for further research and provided an email address and phone number. The Labour Force Survey is a 2-stage sample design stratified using Administrative County and the Pobal HP Deprivation Index. For further information on the Labour Force Survey see 

Data Collection

The sample selection methodology resulted in a sample of 4,033 people. 3,033 of these were issued the questionnaire via email on Thursday 23rd April, while 500 were issued with letters requesting their participation in the online survey. A further 500 were scheduled to be contacted via CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing). For the purposes of this analysis, data collection was closed on Friday 1st May 2020, at which point the achieved sample was 1,362 individuals.

Sample Design

Timeliness was a key priority in this survey and therefore the sample and subsequent weighting process is one of convenience to some extent. Some consideration needs to be given to the potential impact of sample design on response rates and achieved sample:

  • The original LFS sample from which this sample was selected was based on Census 2011 data and designed to represent the population then, so new additions to the population may not be fully represented.
  • The sampling frame excludes people who do not live in private households, so may not cover some of those more likely to be negatively affected by the spread of the disease.
  • The sampling frame was composed of individuals who had responded through 5 waves of the LFS survey, which could have introduced bias into the sample, as their characteristics may differ in some way to people more inclined to drop out of a longitudinal sample over time.
  • The sample did not include people that did not provide an email address, which means members of the population less likely to have an email address, such as older people or people without internet access, were likely to be underrepresented.
  • There is a mode effect, whereby the method of administration of the questionnaire can impact responses. For example, the presence of an interviewer in CATI can encourage a higher response rate compared to self-administered web questionnaires. On the other hand, sensitive questions may be more honestly answered without an interviewer present.
  • The achieved sample distribution could also have been impacted by non-response bias. This is caused by the fact that some respondents might be more inclined to respond than others, and people who respond to these surveys often have different characteristics compared to non-respondents.

The weighting procedure outlined below was designed to adjust for possible bias in the achieved sample as much as possible.

Weighting

The following weighting process was devised to counteract some of the potential bias within the sample, and to make the final weighted sample distribution as representative as possible of the population.

Stage 1: Non-response

In the first stage of the weighting process, each person in the sample was given a weight of 1. We utilised the current LFS non-response adjustment process, in which a stepwise logistic regression was conducted based on census household-level data, to generate response propensities based upon the following characteristics:

  • Personal characteristics (of head of household) – Sex, Marital status, Education, Nationality, PES, Age, Social class, Ethnicity
  • Household characteristics – Area type, Dwelling type, Tenure, Number of persons in household, Number of cars owned by household, Number of rooms, Household PC, Urban/Rural, County

The sample is then grouped into strata based on propensity score, for which non-response adjustments were calculated and applied to each respondent.

Stage 2: Calibration

In stage 2, Q4 2019 LFS population estimates were used to benchmark the dataset across key characteristics for calibration. The non-response adjustments were inflated match overall the population total and then calibrated using CALMAR[1], to ensure that weighted sample totals matched the Q4 2019 benchmark totals for a number of key characteristics such as gender, age, education level, region, urban/rural location, household composition.

  LFS Q42019 Achieved SICS Sample Final Weighted Distribution
       
State 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
       
Sex      
Male 49.0% 40.2% 48.8%
Female 51.0% 59.8% 51.3%
       
Age      
18 to 34 27.8% 7.7% 27.4%
35 to 44 20.8% 26.2% 20.9%
45 to 54 17.9% 24.5% 18.0%
55 to 69 20.5% 32.2% 20.6%
70+ 13.0% 9.4% 13.1%
       
Marital Status      
Single - never married 36.9% 23.2% 36.9%
Married 52.7% 65.1% 52.7%
Separated or divorced 5.4% 4.0% 3.2%
Widowed 5.1% 7.8% 7.3%
       
PES      
Working for payment or profit 59.2% 63.2% 59.3%
Unemployed 4.0% 3.0% 4.0%
Student or pupil 6.7% 1.9% 6.7%
Retired from employment 15.9% 21.3% 15.9%
Unable to work due to permanent sickness or disability 4.8% 2.6% 4.1%
Engaged on home duties 8.9% 7.4% 8.9%
Other 0.5% 0.6% 1.1%
       
Nationality      
Irish 85.2% 93.0% 85.2%
Non-Irish 14.8% 7.0% 14.8%
       
Highest educational level      
Higher secondary education or lower 47.9% 22.0% 47.9%
Post-secondary or Short cycle tertiary 18.4% 23.4% 18.4%
Third level bachelor or higher 33.7% 54.6% 33.7%
       
Household Composition      
1 adult,no children 13.2% 15.3% 13.2%
2+ adults, no children 48.3% 44.3% 48.3%
Households with children 38.5% 40.5% 38.5%
       
urban/rural      
Urban 66.3% 68.4% 66.3%
Rural 33.7% 31.6% 33.7%
       
Dwelling       
Detached House 42.7% 45.2% 42.7%
Semi-detached house 30.5% 32.2% 30.5%
Terraced house 16.1% 14.4% 16.1%
Apartment/Flat/Bedsitter 10.7% 8.3% 10.8%
Other 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
       
Deprivation Index Stratum      
Very disadvantaged 19.3% 10.1% 19.3%
Disadvantaged 18.9% 16.5% 18.9%
Average 19.6% 20.6% 19.6%
Affluent 21.3% 23.6% 21.3%
Very affluent 21.0% 29.2% 21.0%
       
Nuts 3 region      
Northern and Western 17.6% 13.3% 17.6%
Southern 33.0% 34.7% 33.0%
Eastern and Midland 49.4% 52.1% 49.4%
       
Degree of urbanisation      
Densely-populated area 36.0% 39.7% 36.0%
Intermediate area 22.3% 23.4% 22.3%
Thinly-populated area 41.7% 36.9% 41.7%
       
Tenure Status      
Owner-occupied 72.5% 83.3% 72.5%
Rented 27.5% 16.7% 27.5%

Acknowledgement

The Central Statistics Office wishes to thank the participants for their co-operation in agreeing to take part in the Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey and for facilitating the collection of the relevant data.

[1] CALMAR is the statistical software developed by INSEE. Calmar is a SAS macro program that implements the calibration approach and adjusts weights assigned to individuals using auxiliary variables.

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