Girls and adolescents from low-income homes more at risk from secondary impacts of COVID-19

11 June 2021

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New research study reveals that girls and adolescents from low-income homes may be especially vulnerable to negative secondary impacts of COVID-19 that can affect mental health. 

Dr Pascale Engel de Abreu, an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Luxembourg, led international study to examine the well-being of adolescents in Luxembourg, Germany, and Brazil who are differently affected by the global health crisis.

COVID-19 exacerbates pre-existing inequalities

Countries have taken drastic measures to minimise social interactions to fight COVID-19. These measures often led to temporary closure of schools and of extra-​curricular activities, which dramatically changed the daily lives of adolescents.

The study found that girls and adolescents from low-income households are more likely to suffer the negative psychological consequences of COVID-19 than boys and adolescents from more affluent households.

“Lower levels of well-being during the pandemic were associated with being a girl, with lower socioeconomic status and lower levels of life satisfaction before the pandemic.”

Prof. Dr. Pascale Engel de Abreu

Results of the study showed that gender, socioeconomic status, intrapersonal factors, quantity and type of schoolwork, and relationships with adults were important common predictors of individual differences in subjective well-being during COVID-19. Fear of illness emerged as the strongest correlate of emotional well-being across the three countries.

Children in Luxembourg, Germany and Brazil experienced a significant drop in life satisfaction 

When examining the sociodemographic characteristics and other background variables, the analysis showed that the three country groups did not differ significantly in terms of gender distribution and age. In other terms, there are fundamental similarities in the factors that shape adolescent well-being, despite the different contexts.

Still, some significant cross-country differences emerged on the other reported variables. For instance, the three groups differed significantly from each other on socioeconomic status and wealth and cultural possessions indicators.

More than 1,600 adolescents between 10 and 16 years old from Luxembourg, Germany and Brazil filled in an online self-report questionnaire between May and July 2020. The outcome variables included measures of life satisfaction and emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study encompassed a range of socio-demographic, interpersonal and intrapersonal covariates.

Open access study “Subjective Well-Being of Adolescents in Luxembourg, Germany, and Brazil During the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Pascale Engel de Abreu, Sascha Neumann, Cyril Wealer, Neander Abreu, Elizeu Coutinho Macedo and Claudine Kirsch has been published in Journal of Adolescent Health.

Read more Covid-19 secondary impact Covid-19: Health/Wealth trade-off

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