England & Wales, Global, Scotland Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

Covid-WIRED: Mapping the evidence on the unequal wellbeing impacts of the pandemic

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Wellbeing is ‘how we’re doing as individuals, communities and as a nation and how sustainable that is for the future’ – it includes everything that matters to us as individuals, communities and society.

So much of our lives has been turned upside down in the past 18 months. Our wellbeing has been affected by the more tangible direct impacts of the pandemic, such as income or employment losses, and illness, but also the more intangible social and psychological impacts such as loneliness, anxiety and loss of sense of purpose.

If wellbeing is the goal of society that informs our policies and is the basis for making everyday decisions, it is necessary to understand the full breadth of what drives our wellbeing, and how these drivers interact with each other.

Our latest project – Covid-WIRED – The Covid Wellbeing Inequalities Research Evidence Dashboard – is a new and unique online dashboard looking at emerging research on the impact of the pandemic on different populations and outcomes, starting with subjective wellbeing and its drivers:

  • Health
  • What we do
  • Relationships
  • Money
  • Where we live
  • Education

The result is a collection of over 400 pieces of evidence that have been organised with wellbeing domains on the vertical axis and dimension of inequality along the horizontal axis. You can search by domain, inequality dimension, study design, and whether the evidence suggests the wellbeing change was positive or negative –  or widened or narrowed existing wellbeing inequalities.

Unequal impacts

By looking at inequalities through changes in wellbeing, it is possible to identify which groups have been hardest hit. In some cases, the unequal impacts from the pandemic have exacerbated existing inequalities, while in other cases new vulnerabilities have been exposed.

It highlights the importance of taking a detailed and disaggregated look at how people are doing in the UK and what is driving changes in subjective wellbeing.

Humans are resilient – some of these changes will return to normal without much of an impact, but some won’t and may have longer-term effects on people’s lives.

This evidence can be used to inform the design of local policies and programmes to take into account how some people may have been affected by multiple drivers of wellbeing all at once and how existing inequalities and vulnerabilities may have been exacerbated, requiring a doubling down on addressing inequality in your area.

Living resource

A wellbeing approach to effective policy and decision making is about how decisions are made. Instead of prescribed one-size-fits-all policies, we know that agency and control – both by individuals and communities – matters.

Covid-WIRED is unique in that it is a live database that we intend to update with new research as it is collected. Our aim is that this will be an ongoing and valuable resource for policy and practitioner audiences who are interested in understanding the unequal impact of Covid on different people’s wellbeing in a wide range of contexts.

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