Lower socioeconomic groups and disadvantaged populations across the world suffer disproportionately from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This study aimed to examine the impact of health- and social-inequality–related factors on well-being in order to further distinguish each of their effects during the pandemic. Methods:
A nationally-representative sample of 5077 UK respondents aged 18 years or older was recruited through an online survey panel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their subjective well-being was measured using the 11-point Cantril Ladder of Life Scale. The impact of inequality-related health and social factors (pre-existing medical conditions, household size and occupation), as well as COVID-19–related risk factors (symptoms, confirmed infections, and social distancing behaviours) on well-being were analysed using multiple linear regression models. The associations between the COVID-19–related risk factors and well-being according to the respondents’ household size and occupation were modelled in order to test the differences by their socioeconomic profile. Results:
We identified inverted V-shaped associations between household size and subjective well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to single-person households, respondents from households of two to four persons showed better well-being (β = 0.57; CI (0.44, 0.72)), whereas living in crowded households of five persons or more was associated with decreased well-being (β = −0.48; CI (−0.71, −0.25)). Furthermore, lower-skilled occupations (elementary occupations: β = −0.31; CI (−0.58, −0.03); logistics and transport services: β = −0.37; CI (−0.74, −0.01)) and chronic medical conditions (cardiometabolic or respiratory diseases: β = −0.25; CI (−0.41, −0.1); and mental health conditions: β = −1.12; CI (−1.28, −0.96)) were factors associated with reduced well-being during the pandemic. Interactions between a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms, and crowded households were identified (β = −0.95; CI (−1.76, −0.14) and β = −4.74; CI (−9.87, −1.61), respectively). Conclusions:
In a national sample, the levels of general subjective well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns were disproportionately distributed across different groups within society. Preventive policies should explicitly focus on reaching lower socioeconomic groups; more emphasis should be placed on the coordination of multisectoral support in order to tackle existing health and social inequalities.
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