Since it was declared a pandemic on March 12th by the World Health Organization, COVID-19 has gone on to impact every aspect of human life. With over 400 000 deaths attributed to the virus globally, international fears have caused food shortages, economic fluctuations and the suspension of international travel. As more people chose to stay at home to combat the spread of the disease, home and family life undoubtedly has become one area of life that the virus has most affected. Some countries are beginning to reopen, but many areas are not yet on the road to recovery and coronavirus resources for families and children are more vital than ever. It may still be too early to tell the full extent of COVID-19’s effect on our lives, but here are some of the ways the pandemic has already impacted families worldwide.
Fear and Anxiety
Many experts worry that the pandemic could impact the mental health of individuals in an extended, negative way. In the wake of the 2002-2003 Sars epidemic Hong Kong residents continued to exhibit elevated stress levels up to a year later. Balancing the fear of infection with the huge influx of information surrounding the pandemic can overwhelm even well-adjusted individuals. The sudden changes in lifestyle caused by the pandemic, from losing employment to the sheer boredom of staying at home, have a negative impact as well. Hence, many countries have seen an increase in depression and anxiety among citizens. Children also tend to take on the anxiety their families are dealing with, even if they do not fully understand the situation. However, many individuals have reported an increase in concern for mental health and have adopted healthier habits, from quitting smoking to establishing a regular exercise regime.
Unemployment and Working from Home
For working adults, the largest change has likely been related to employment. The pandemic has heavily impacted working-class families worldwide, as many hourly workers have been let go and others have had to brave high-risk conditions as an “essential workers.” Especially in countries with insufficient social security resources, such as the United States, increased unemployment rates have caused many families to worry about their economic security.
Even if you have managed to keep your job, working from home presents a major change in the stresses and responsibilities of employment. Many find it more difficult to focus, as domestic responsibilities are ever-present. However, many have come to appreciate the advantages of telecommuting, and many offices—most notably Twitter—have considered making a permanent switch.
While working adults have had to make the adjustment to working from home, students have experienced a massive shift from school life to distance learning. Without proper training, teachers have had to scramble to keep kids engaged, and many students have struggled to maintain their grades, juggling increased ambient stress and decreased learning resources. School life, especially college life, has an important social element that the pandemic has essentially cancelled, and many adolescents and young adults have had difficulty adjusting. Both children and adults have turned to social media and other online platforms for entertainment and socialization, but many reports that this has left them feeling even more isolated.
Numerous countries experiencing extended lockdowns have seen spikes in divorce rates as well. There had been an increase in incidents of domestic violence, sometimes as much as by threefold. Because married couples face higher stress in making decisions and spend less time apart, relations that were already strained are proving less likely to weather increased stress. Women also tend to spend much more time performing unpaid care work than men, even with full-time jobs, further straining marriages where the distribution of responsibility is unbalanced.
On the other hand, some families have reported that time spent at home has brought them closer together. Parents who previously had to prioritize their careers above family time have been able to focus on neglected relationships, and many individuals report an increased concern for the wellbeing of their family members.
Lastly, and perhaps most seriously, many families have suffered the loss of loved ones as the result of the pandemic. While the pandemic has put stress on even healthy individuals, this stress has left a very tangible mark on individuals directly affected by the virus. Without proper time and space to mourn, such losses are made even worse.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in some areas of the globe, even as the battle against the virus rages in others, the world is beginning to see the impact the virus has had on our world and our families—the positive and the negative. Only time will tell how these effects will manifest once the threat of the virus is a thing of the past.