Background Despite media claims that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is uniting societies and countries in shared experience, there has been concern that the pandemic is in fact exposing and widening existing inequalities within societies. Data have shown these differences for cases and fatalities, but data on other types of adversities are lacking. Therefore, this study explored the changing patterns of adversity relating to the COVID-19 pandemic by socioeconomic position (SEP) during the early weeks of lockdown in the UK.
Methods Data were from 12 527 UK adults in the University College London COVID-19 Social Study (a panel study that involves online weekly data collection from participants during the COVID-19 pandemic). We analysed data collected from 25 March to 14 April 2020. The sample was well-stratified and weighted to population proportions of gender, age, ethnicity, education and country of living. We used Poisson and logit models to assess 10 different types of adverse experiences depending on an index of SEP over time.
Results There was a clear gradient across the number of adverse events experienced each week by SEP. This was most clearly seen for adversities relating to finances (including loss of employment and cut in income) and basic needs (including access to food and medications) but less for experiences directly relating to the virus. Inequalities were maintained with no reductions in discrepancies between socioeconomic groups over time.
Conclusions There were clear inequalities in adverse experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in the early weeks of lockdown in the UK. Results suggest that measures taken to try to reduce such adverse events did not go far enough in tackling inequality.
- PUBLIC HEALTH
- MENTAL HEALTH
- Cohort studies
- PSYCHOSOCIAL FACTORS
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Correction notice This article has been corrected since it first published online. The Funding statement has been updated.
Contributors DF, AS and LW conceived and designed the study. LW analysed the data and DF wrote the first draft. All authors provided critical revisions. All authors read and approved the submitted manuscript.
Funding This COVID-19 Social Study was funded by the Nuffield Foundation [WEL/FR-000022583], but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. The study was also supported by the MARCH Mental Health Network funded by the Cross-Disciplinary Mental Health Network Plus initiative supported by UK Research and Innovation [ES/S002588/1], and by the Wellcome Trust [221400/Z/20/Z]. DF was funded by the Wellcome Trust [205407/Z/16/Z]. The researchers are grateful for the support of a number of organisations with their recruitment efforts including: the UKRI Mental Health Networks, Find Out Now, UCL BioResource, HealthWise Wales, SEO Works, FieldworkHub, and Optimal Workshop. The study was also supported by HealthWise Wales, the Health and Car Research Wales initiative, which is led by Cardiff University in collaboration with SAIL, Swansea University. The funders had no final role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication. All researchers listed as authors are independent from the funders and all final decisions about the research were taken by the investigators and were unrestricted.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.