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Worries of the world: Why lockdowns more stressful for women than men

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Men’s stress levels go down during lockdown, but women’s go up, latest coronavirus lockdown research shows.

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As Victoria’s fourth lockdown looks set to be extended until next week, the new research shows women take on extra stress during tough stay-at-home restrictions.

As if women needed more negatives from a pandemic that that has already disproportionately impacted them economically and socially and increased the gender gap, the research published Wednesday in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface found lockdowns triggered an increased stress burden in women.

While women’s stress went through the roof during lockdown, men, on the other hand, sleep and their stress levels “significantly decrease”.

The study found men being at home more wasn’t the cause of women’s stress. Rather women were more stressed because they were more worried about job losses and reduced work hours, looking after children, and even potentially greater risk of domestic violence.

The study, by Tel Aviv University researchers in Israel, for the first time shows the stark difference between how women and men are impacted by government stay-at-home orders.

It is the first to isolate the specific effect of lockdown rather than the general impacts of the pandemic on people and their stress levels.

The authors said the study, based on questionnaires and data from Fitbits worn by people during lockdown, was conducted during Israel’s second lockdown. This meant researchers could assess the longer-lasting effects of being forced to stay at home rather than the acute, life-threatening feeling people had the first time they were sent into lockdown.

The findings are likely to apply to how men and women are feeling in Victoria as the lockdown is expected to extend amid fears over a more infectious super strain.

Three new virus cases were recorded in Victoria on Tuesday – the fifth day of the state’s “circuit breaker” lockdown – that brought the tally of the latest outbreak to 54 active infections.

The number of exposure sites grew to 345.

Queensland has been lockdown-free since Greater Brisbane went into lockdown just before Easter.

In its second snap lockdown, people in Greater Brisbane were ordered to stay at home, except for essential reasons, from 5pm Monday 29 March to 5pm Thursday 1 April 2021.

In that lockdown, people could only leave home for limited permitted purposes such as obtaining essential goods or services, healthcare, exercise, attending essential work or childcare, or assisting vulnerable persons.

The findings compound the unequal effect of the pandemic on women compared to men.

Latest figures from the Grattan Institute show Australian women copped a triple-whammy from the pandemic. It found women lost more jobs than men, have had to shoulder more of the increase in unpaid work that has come with more time at home, on top of their existing heavier load, and were less likely to get government support because JobKeeper excluded short-term casuals, who in the hardest-hit industries were mostly women.

A report by Deloitte Global called Women @ Work: A Global Outlook, released last week, found three quarters of Australian working women said their workload had increased since the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, 61 percent of Australian women said their household commitments had also increased.

The Deloitte report found job satisfaction had plunged among Australian women and the majority felt less optimistic about their career prospects than before the pandemic, while nearly a quarter said they may leave the workforce for good.

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