While more men died from COVID-19, women’s well-being was more negatively affected than men’s during the first year of the pandemic.

In general, men and women’s experiences of life in lockdown tended to differ.

Women were more likely to be furloughed, and to spend significantly less time working from home, and more time on unpaid household work and childcare.

However, when looking at mortality from the coronavirus, more men died from COVID-19 than women, even though pre-pandemic annual mortality rates were higher for men than women in England and Wales.

This is the first in a series of publications coming out over the next few weeks that look at the impacts on people, and the way they have been affected during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths were higher among men than women

Weekly COVID-19-related death occurrences, England and Wales, March 2020 to February 2021

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  1. These figures represent death occurrences, there can be a delay between the date a death occurred and the date a death was registered. More information can be found in our impact of registration delays release.

  2. ONS deaths by actual date of death registered by 20 February 2021

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There was an almost 18% difference in the total number of COVID-19-related deaths for men (63,700) and women (53,300), between March 2020 and January 2021 in England and Wales.

In the early stages of the pandemic, particularly between 1 March and 30 April 2020, the difference was even more pronounced: 30% more men (21,600) than women (16,600) died in the UK due to COVID-19 during those two months.

There were just over 38,200 deaths involving COVID-19 in the UK during that period, and men accounted for around 57% of those.

As the year progressed, the difference in the number of deaths between men and women narrowed until the end of September 2020, when the gap between them began to open again, peaking again in the week ending 22 January 2021.

Looking at the registered deaths of people of traditional working age (20 to 64 years) in England and Wales between 9 March and 28 December 2020, the mortality rate involving COVID-19 was significantly greater among men than women (31 deaths per 100,000 compared with 17 deaths, respectively), after standardising for age. This applied across all occupational groups.

A consistently greater number of women than men have been furloughed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Daily number of men and women furloughed, UK, between 1 July and 31 December 2020

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  1. Based on claims made by 14 January 2021. The December 2020 figures are provisional and may be revised because of late and amended claims.

  2. For these statistics, an “employer” is defined as a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme, and “employments” are defined according to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) criteria. Further details are within the background section.

  3. No reason is stated for why the number of people on furlough changes sharply at the end of each month, but this may be because of application deadlines and administrative delays.

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The pandemic has forced many people to change the way they work. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) and an increase in the proportion of people working from home are two of these changes.

A consistently greater number of women than men were furloughed between 1 July and 31 December 2020.

On 1 July 2020, there were 2.9 million women on furlough, compared with 2.7 million men. By 31 October 2020, the number of women on furlough reduced to 1.2 million compared with 1.1 million men.

Between 31 October and 30 November 2020, the number of women on furlough increased to 1.9 million and 1.8 million for men. This may be a result of the furlough scheme being unexpectedly extended at the end of October.

Preliminary data estimates show that while the number of women on furlough decreased to just over 1.9 million by 31 December 2020, the number of men on furlough increased to just under 1.9 million.

The other major change to people’s working lives since March 2020 has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of people working from home.

Roughly equal numbers of men and women (86%) cited the coronavirus pandemic as their reason for working from home in April 2020.

Men and women have both moved to homeworking, with men initially helping more with unpaid work and unpaid childcare; however, the difference increased in September to early October 2020 compared with the start of the pandemic.

Women consistently spent more time on unpaid childcare and unpaid household work throughout the pandemic

Working from home, unpaid childcare and household work, across Great Britain and the UK, in 2014 to 2015, March to April 2020, and September to October 2020

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  1. September to October 2020 and March to April 2020 periods refer to the population of Great Britain, while the 2014 to 2015 period refers to the UK population. 2014 to 2015 is used as a comparison with before the pandemic because it is the most recent comparable dataset from before the pandemic.

  2. Unpaid household work is unpaid work excluding travel and childcare.

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While both men and women spent more time working from home throughout the pandemic, women did more unpaid household work than men.

During September and early October 2020, women spent 64% more time on unpaid household work than men.

The amount of time women spent on unpaid household work fell from an average of 3 hours and 8 minutes per day during 2014 to 2015 to an average of 2 hours and 43 minutes per day during September and early October 2020.

The amount of time men spent on unpaid household work increased from an average of 1 hour and 45 minutes per day during 2014 to 2015, to 1 hour and 58 minutes per day during the end of March and April 2020, before reducing to 1 hour and 40 minutes per day during September and early October.

At the beginning of the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, women spent 55% more time than men on unpaid childcare. However, this difference is smaller than in September and October 2020, when women spent 99% more time on unpaid childcare than men.

Additionally, a significantly greater proportion of women (67%) than men (52%) homeschooled a school-age child in late January and early February (13 January and 7 February 2021).

In April and early May 2020, around one in three women (34%) reported that their well-being was negatively affected by homeschooling a school age child compared with only one in five men (20%). By late January and early February 2021, it was taking a greater toll on both women (53%) and men (45%).

Women reported higher anxiety, depression and loneliness than men

Anxiety, lonely at some point, and moderate to severe depressive symptoms, Great Britain, March 2020 to January 2021

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  1. Respondents were asked "Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?" and answered on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “not at all” and 10 is “completely”. High anxiety is defined as a score of 6 to 10.

  2. Respondents were asked “How often do you feel lonely?” Reference to “lonely” refers to the combined proportion of respondents who selected “Often/always”, “Some of the time”, “Occasionally”, and “Hardly ever”.

  3. The depression score is derived using the eight-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8) screener. Moderate to severe symptoms refers to a depression (PHQ-8) score of between 10 and 24 (inclusive). Further details on the methodology are available.

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The well-being impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have been wide reaching. Office for National Statistics (ONS) research has shown significantly different levels of anxiety, loneliness and worry about the coronavirus, and depressive symptoms, between men and women during the pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, average anxiety scores increased to the highest levels recorded since the ONS began collecting personal well-being data. Women reported significantly higher anxiety than men at almost every point between 20 March 2020 and 7 February 2021, continuing the pre-pandemic trend.

Recent regression analysis found that loneliness was the strongest driver of anxiety in April and May 2020. Analysis found that someone reporting loneliness is up to 4.7 times more likely to also experience high anxiety than someone who says they never feel lonely. Further analysis found that, while controlling for other characteristics such as age, disability and access to essentials, women were 1.3 times more likely to report loneliness than men during this time-period.

The difference between men and women's level of loneliness and depressive symptoms was largest from June 2020 onwards, implying that changes in levels of depression and loneliness were preceded by changes in anxiety.

More men reported being not at all worried about the effects of the coronavirus on their lives

The proportion of respondents who are not at all worried about the effects that the coronavirus pandemic is having on their life right now, Great Britain, March 2020 to February 2021

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  1. Respondents were asked "How worried or unworried are you about the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having on your life right now?"
  2. Options included “very worried”, “somewhat worried”, “neither worried or unworried”, “somewhat unworried” and “not at all worried”.

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The proportion of men and women reporting that they were not at all worried increased between March and May 2020. Between 4 and 28 June 2020 and 12 and 30 August 2020, a higher proportion of men than women reported being not at all worried, coinciding with more relaxed coronavirus restrictions across Great Britain.


  • Coronavirus and anxiety, Great Britain

    The number of people reporting high levels of anxiety has sharply elevated during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This article will provide insights into which socio-demographic and economic factors were most associated with high levels of anxiety during the first weeks of lockdown.

  • A “new normal”? How people spent their time after the March 2020 coronavirus lockdown

    During the first national coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, many people in Great Britain were forced to make changes to their lifestyles. But it appears that some of those changes may not have lasted long.

  • Coronavirus and how people spent their time under lockdown

    Experimental results of the pilot Office for National Statistics (ONS) online time-use study (collected 28 March to 26 April 2020 across Great Britain) compared with the 2014 to 2015 UK time-use study.


Mitchell Brain and Chris S Payne
Telephone: 01633 560387