The Impact of the Pandemic on Mental Health in Ethnically Diverse Mothers: Findings from the Born in Bradford, Tower Hamlets and Newham COVID-19 Research Programmes

Publication authors

Claire McIvor; Yassaman Vafai; Brian Kelly; Sarah E. O’Toole; Michelle Heys; Ellena Badrick; Halima Iqbal; Kate E. Pickett; Claire Cameron; and Josie Dickerson


Restrictions implemented by the UK Government during the COVID-19 pandemic have served to worsen mental health outcomes, particularly amongst younger adults, women, those living with chronic health conditions, and parents of young children. Studies looking at the impact for ethnic minorities have reported inconsistent findings. This paper describes the mental health experiences of mothers from a large and highly ethnically diverse population during the pandemic, using secondary analysis of existing data from three COVID-19 research studies completed in Bradford and London (Tower Hamlets and Newham). A total of 2807 mothers participated in this study with 44% White British, 23% Asian/Asian British Pakistani, 8% Other White and 7% Asian/Asian British Bangladeshi backgrounds. We found that 28% of mothers experienced clinically important depressive symptoms and 21% anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. In unadjusted analyses, mothers from White Other, and Asian/Asian British Bangladeshi backgrounds had higher odds of experiencing symptoms, whilst mothers from Asian/Asian British Indian backgrounds were the least likely to experience symptoms. Once loneliness, social support and financial insecurity were controlled for, there were no statistically significant differences in depression and anxiety by ethnicity. Mental health problems experienced during the pandemic may have longer term consequences for public health. Policy and decision makers must have an understanding of the high risk of financial insecurity, loneliness and a lack of social support on mother’s mental health, and also recognise that some ethnic groups are far more likely to experience these issues and are, therefore, more vulnerable to poor mental health as a consequence.