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Covid-19: a “chauvinistic” pandemic

Chilean women are suffering the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in greater numbers than their male counterparts.

 

Rafael Calcines

 

Women have greater contact with Covid-19 patients, as they make up a larger part of healthcare workers and are also those who, in their homes, carry the weight of caring for children and older adults. At the same time, due to the confinement, they are suffering from profound effects in the sphere of mental health, with problems such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

In addition to health problems, women go to medical appointments less often than men when they suspect they have caught the disease. Meanwhile, they also bear the brunt of the economic and labour issues generated by the health crisis in the country.

Those are some of the problems recorded by the fifth National Symptom and Practice Monitoring Report on Covid-19 in Chile (Movid-19), a joint work between the Public Health School from the University of Chile and the Medical College, in cooperation with other institutions.

In this report, recently published, they also took into account data from the Social Thermometer survey, carried out by the Microdata Centre from the University of Chile, the Millennium Nucleus on Social Development (DESOC) and the Centre of Studies of Conflict and Social Cohesion (COES), whose work in the field took place between 30 May and 10 June 2020.

According to the finished study, in all evaluated aspects, the situation for the female interviewees, a total of 45,499, is much worse than that of men. Francisca Crispi, President of the Department of Gender and Health at the Medical College, states that the current situation has caused a crisis at an important social and financial level, especially in a vulnerable group such as women.

“This affects women more,” she adds, “because they have precarious and informal jobs that have been lost due to the pandemic; and the closure of schools and nurseries has increased childcare in the home, of which women carry a greater burden”.

However, cases of domestic violence and difficulties in accessing sexual and reproductive rights have also risen significantly.

One of the most concerning results from the Movid-19 report was that women of all ages are seeking less medical attention than men when they have typical symptoms of Covid-19, which is even higher in women over 65.

Regarding the latter, only 14.6% said that they visit health clinics, while only 11.4% of women who are between 18 and 39 years old seek health assistance, and something similar happens among 40 to 60 year olds, with 12.7%.

Another significant figure collected by the Social Thermometer is that, in terms of mental health, 55.8% of the women surveyed said that in the middle of the pandemic, their mood has worsened.

35 of every 100 women state they have had problems sleeping, 26.5% have had feelings of depression and 34% have presented with symptoms of anxiety and nervousness. In response to the same questions, the men consulted replied in much smaller percentages.

Another indicator recorded refers to work and financial factors between men and women, differentiated in relation to their levels of studies, among those who finished secondary school or higher, and those who did not.

In this respect, women with incomplete secondary education present the greatest sense of vulnerability and almost half of them believed that it is completely or very probable that the business where they work will go bankrupt in the next three months, while only a quarter of men in the same conditions believed the same. In Chile, a large number of women are head of the household and, in many cases, it falls on their shoulders to sustain numerous offspring and, in this respect, the study showed that 61.7% of the women consulted estimate that debt in their household will increase.

Differences are apparent even in the direct treatment of those who are ill from the pandemic, as 11.9% of female health workers have had contact with people infected with Covid-19, a significantly higher figure than that of men who work in this sector, which is 6.9%.

A fundamental aspect that the study indicates is the need to develop joint responsibility between men and women in all the household chores, although this is one job that requires changes of mentality and goes far beyond the more or less prolonged, but transitory, situation of the pandemic, and demands much deeper and longer-term changes in Chilean society. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: donna_davison@hotmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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