COVID-19 survey helps researchers understand mental health, employment and parenting during lockdown

In May, we launched a special online COVID-19 survey of Next Steps study members to help understand the impact of the pandemic on your work, your health, your family and your social life. We also invited participants in four other studies (born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000-02) to complete the survey. Over 18,000 people across the five studies responded.

Our researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) have already done some initial analysis on the information collected from four of these studies including Next Steps.

Employment family responsibilities

The researchers found that during lockdown in May, the average hours worked had decreased by around 40% from before the pandemic – this figure combines those who had stopped working completely with those who took on reduced hours. They also found that mothers were more likely than fathers to sacrifice work for home schooling and developmental play with their children.

The researchers found that among parents of school aged children (age 5-16), 58% did home schooling with their children on a typical day – 64% of mothers and 49% of fathers. This analysis was based on BCS70 study members aged 50.

Among parents of preschool children, (analysis from Next Steps), study member mothers were spending, on average, five hours per day on developmental play, while fathers spent, on average, two hours each day on this.

These differences between mothers and fathers in activities with children were also reflected in stopping work. Mothers, especially those with children of primary school age or younger, were considerably more likely than fathers of children at the same age, to have stopped work.

Widening inequalities

The survey also found that across all age-groups, nearly 30% of people reported being financially worse off since the start of the pandemic.

By the end of May, 84% of workers in paid employment who had stopped working were on the government-supported ‘furlough’ scheme. However, only 27-35% of those self-employed who had stopped working had claimed support from the self-employment income support scheme.

The authors noted that across all generations, those who reported that they were struggling financially before lockdown were most likely to say they were worse off since the outbreak.

Poor mental health

The researchers found that poor mental health in lockdown was most common among the 19-year-olds surveyed in the Child of the New Century study, followed by millennials in Next Steps. Across all four age groups, women were more likely than men to experience mental health problems. Among 19-year-olds, just over one third of women and just under one quarter of men had symptoms of depression during lockdown in May, and 45% of women and 42% of men had felt lonely during this time.

Why this research is important

This research is some of the first to look at home schooling, employment and mental health during the lockdown period. Subsequent COVID-19 surveys will add to the data available for important research in these areas.

A big thank you to the study members, across the five studies, who completed the survey. We’ll be inviting all study members to complete another survey in September.

COVID-19 survey findings in the news

Below is a selection of articles featuring this research (opens in a separate window):

Women ‘put careers on hold’ to home school during UK Covid-19 lockdown, Guardian, 30 July 2020

Mothers bearing the brunt of home schooling with twice as much teaching as fathers, survey shows, The Telegraph, 30 July 2020 (£ – paywall)

Mothers most likely to have sacrificed work for home schooling during lockdown, The ‘I’, 30 July 2020

Young women ‘most likely to suffer depression, anxiety and loneliness in lockdown’, Independent, 7 August 2020

Further information

Mental health during lockdown: evidence from four generations – initial findings from COVID-19 surveys (Download – opens PDF in a separate window)

Finances and employment during lockdown – initial findings from COVID-19 survey (Download – opens PDF in a separate window)

Parental involvement in home schooling and developmental play during lockdown – initial findings from COVID-19 survey (Download – opens PDF in a separate window)