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The pandemics disproportionate impact on already disadvantaged communities

While all of us have felt the strain of the lockdowns in one way or another it’s important to remember the impact is not equal and the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the mental health of disadvantaged communities such as ethnic minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and those from low-income backgrounds.





1. Ethnic minorities


Those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds have long been believed to have higher levels of mental health problems, for example anxiety when compared to the white population, but in 2020 the gap widened as can be seen in the graph below with there being less recovery from the impact of the initial lockdown in the non-white population.


[1]


Furthermore, analysis of UKHLS data found the specific communities that are worst affected.

“When considering men, reports larger declines in mental health in the Black, Asian and minority ethnic group than the White British group, and suggests this may be driven by Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi men” [1]


2. Sexual minorities


The LGBT+ young people’s charity JustLikeUs conducted a study of young people’s mental health in February 2021 to examine the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on LGBT youth and found among other sobering statistics:


“LGBT+ young people are twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers (52% vs 27%) to have felt lonely and separated from the people they are closest to on a daily basis during lockdown.” [2]


One suggestion is that this could be because closeted LGBT youth rely more on their friends than their family as confidantes.


3. Low income


Finally, it’s not hard to see why the pandemic has hurt those in lower income communities the most, with many either losing their jobs or the nature of their jobs as essential workers meaning they have to go out and risk themselves instead of working from home like those with jobs that allow that can. On top of this, since many cannot pay for private therapy they will be forced to wait on ever increasing NHS waitlists which is a risk if their needs are more urgent.


A longitudinal study in the USA comparing mental health of the population from a T1 of March/April 2020 to a T2 of March/April 2021 was published in October 2021 and confirmed this notion by illustrating just how massive the income mental health gap had grown:


“The odds of depression tied to low income and more stressors rose steeply from T1 to T2. At T1, relative to participants with an income of at least $75,000, those who made $19,999 or less were at 2.3 times the odds of depression, but by T2, they had 7.0 times the odds.” [3]


It’s likely that this trend holds true for the UK and other countries as well and that the gap between those in high income countries and those in developing countries could be even more steep.


It’s important that as therapists we recognise this inequality and keep in mind when treating those from disadvantaged communities that they often face unique challenges and that treatment strategies might have to be tailored to address them. However, it could be said that the real battle is these communities knowing about and being able to afford suitable therapy in the first place, which is a problem that society as a whole must address.


If you specialise in working with children and young people and would like to do some private work, please contact Surrey Therapy Practice at enquiries@surreytherapypractice.com


References

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing-surveillance-spotlights/ethnicity-covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing-surveillance-report

2. https://www.justlikeus.org/single-post/lgbt-young-people-mental-health-coronavirus

3. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanam/article/PIIS2667-193X(21)00087-9/fulltext