The mental well-being of those in the Indian ethnic group in the UK may have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, an official statistical review has revealed.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), people identifying as Indian reported both greater difficulty with sleep over worry between 2019 and the initial period of lockdown until April this year and also had higher scores than other groups on a measure of self-reported mental health difficulties.
The data released this week found that at the start of the UK-wide lockdown, across all ethnic groups, people reported an increased or persistent loss of sleep over worry.
However, after adjusting for age, over one-third (36 per cent) of those from the Indian ethnic group reported this, compared with less than a quarter (23 per cent) of ‘White British’ respondents and 18 per cent of those in the ‘Other White’ ethnic groups.
“What the research shows us is how the impact on different ethnic groups varies and how people’s circumstances before the pandemic could affect their experience during the first national lockdown,” said Glenn Everett, Deputy Director, Sustainability & Inequalities Division.
“Financial resilience was lower among Black African or Other Black households before the pandemic, for example, which would explain why these groups found it harder to manage financially during lockdown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mental health deteriorated across most ethnic groups during lockdown but was most marked in the Indian group,” she said.
Money worries and savings seem to be the dominating factors behind the mental well-being impact.
Most ethnic minorities in the UK also tend to work in more precarious jobs, including on the frontlines in hospital wards, making them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
In comparison with other ethnicities, people of Indian origin coped relatively better in terms of loss of income over the early part of the lockdown, with 58 per cent able to rely on assets to cover the income drop.
The ONS data also found that those of White British and Black, African, Caribbean or Black British ethnicities were also significantly less likely to have used their savings to cover a loss in household earnings (9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively) than those of Pakistani or Bangladeshi (16 per cent) and Indian (17 per cent) ethnicities.
There were significant differences in the extent to which people from different ethnic groups reported working from home during lockdown.
In April 2020, around 57 per cent of Indian ethnicity respondents reported working from home for some of the time over the previous four weeks than several other ethnic groups.
This compared to 47 per cent of White British and 35 per cent in the Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnic groups.
Earlier studies have shown that COVID-19 has a more adverse impact on minority ethnic groups in the UK, with working and living conditions largely believed to be behind the disparity of higher death rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
Comorbidities such as blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are also believed to play a part in making those of South Asian ethnicity more susceptible to serious illness from the deadly virus.
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