B3564 - Implications of covid-19 lockdown for inequalities in health - 01/07/2020

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Laura Howe | MRC IEU (United Kingdom)
Amanda Hughes, Kate Northstone, Beki Langford
Title of project: 
Implications of covid-19 lockdown for inequalities in health
Proposal summary: 

Stark inequalities in health already exist in the UK, with people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds suffering from greater levels of ill health across multiple domains. The covid-19 pandemic potentially threatens to worsen these health inequalities. The ‘lockdown’ changed people’s behaviour radically, but the socioeconomic differences in these experiences are not well understood. Some groups of society may have increased health-promoting behaviours – for example, engaging in more physical activity and preparing more food within the home. Other groups may have experienced adverse changes in health-related behaviours – for example, smoking more or consuming more alcohol in response to the stress and anxiety induced by the pandemic. It is possible these differences are socioeconomically patterned, and could therefore worsen pre-existing inequalities. Another key factor likely to influence patterns of behaviour change during the pandemic is household/family structure. For example, parents with children and individuals shielding or living with a household member who was shielding may have been less able to engage with health-promoting behaviours.

Data from the Office for National Statistics demonstrate that between 23rd March and 5th April 2020, 27% of the UK workforce were furloughed due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Many others lost jobs, or had working hours and income reduced. The adverse financial and employment consequences of the covid-19 lockdown are concentrated in already vulnerable groups of society – they are more likely to be experienced by people in insecure or low-paid jobs. The young adults in ALSPAC are in the age groups most likely to have been affected by furlough, job losses, and loss of pay or hours (https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/young-workers-in-the-c...). Detailed pre-pandemic data from the ALSPAC cohort offers the opportunity to better understand which groups of society were more likely to be impacted financially by the lockdown. We will explore whether SEP, adverse childhood experiences, pre-existing mental health problems, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, shielding or living with a household member who was shielding, and family structure are associated with greater likelihood of adverse financial changes during covid-19, and hence whether the lockdown is likely to exacerbate health challenges for these groups.

Impact of research: 
will hopefully feed into local and potentially national efforts to address inequalities resulting from covid
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 30 June, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 1 July, 2020
Epidemiology, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Mental health, Obesity, Social science