Men of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani heritage saw the steepest decline in their mental wellbeing during the Covid19 lockdown.
Research by the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School and University of Exeter Business School measured and compared the mental health impact of lockdown on different ethnic groups.
The researchers reported that BAME men experienced a much greater deterioration in their mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown than their white British counterparts. There was not the same differentiation on BAME women.
The study used data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) of 14,289 people who were interviewed both in 2017-19 and April 2020.
Using a 12-question General Health Questionnaire, which creates an aggregate score for participants’ mental health, BAME men reported a 14% deterioration in their mental health from 2017-19 to April 2020, but for white British males the deterioration was smaller at just 6.5%.
Women also struggled with their mental health during lockdown, experiencing a similar drop-off in their mental health to BAME men, but ethnicity was not found to have played a significant role.
Similar differences in mental health deterioration by ethnic groups were found after removing the influence of likely factors such as age, location, income, education, job type, employment status and family structure.
The 12-question General Health Questionnaire is a screening device for identifying minor psychiatric disorders, with higher scores indicating higher mental distress.
Most studies on the social and other health implications of Covid19 on BAME individuals have focussed on the physical and not mental health.
Professor Eugenio Proto of the Adam Smith Business School, co author, said:
“It seems that South Asian individuals are paying the heaviest toll. Black individuals seem very resilient. Although, this is not to say that they are not affected.”
The study authors have called for additional research on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across different ethnic groups, and urge both policy makers and researchers to allocate resources to collect larger sample sizes of minority ethnic groups.
The Four Main Findings:
- Ethnicity predicts mental health deterioration when interacted with gender. Among men, BAME individuals experience a higher deterioration in mental health compared to British White individuals. However, among women, the deterioration in mental health is similar for both BAME and British White individuals.
- The gender gap in mental health deterioration is only present among British White individuals and not among BAME individuals.
- The drop in mental health among women and BAME men is very similar.
- There is substantial heterogeneity across BAME groups. The BAME group of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani appears to be driving the difference in the gender gap in mental health deterioration between British White and BAME individuals.
Professor Climent Quintana-Domeque of the University of Exeter Business School, added:
“Much more work is needed to understand the sources of ethnic inequalities and better inform the design of effective policy responses.”