A team of scientists from Australia has recently evaluated the impact of 112-day strict lockdown implemented in Melbourne, Australia, to control the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Interestingly, the study highlights that the lockdown has the highest negative impact on mothers with young children. The study is currently available on the medRxiv* preprint server.
Study: Zero-COVID Policies: Melbourne’s 112-Day Hard Lockdown Experiment Harmed Mostly Mothers. Image Credit: Alex Cimbal/Shutterstock
At the beginning of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, when vaccines were not available, non-pharmaceutical control measures (mask-wearing, social distancing, lockdown) had been extensively implemented worldwide to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Among these measures, lockdown is considered the most intrusive and drastic one.
During the first part of the pandemic, strict lockdowns under the Zero-COVID strategy were implemented in many countries worldwide, which caused almost 4 billion people to stay at home. Many countries had also experienced a severe impact of strict lockdown on socioeconomic status.
In the current study, the scientists have evaluated the causal impact of a strict lockdown implemented in Melbourne, Australia, for 112 consecutive days in July 2020. Specifically, they have evaluated the impact of lockdown on multiple domains of human life, including health, health-related behaviors, social behaviors, work availability, and income.
During the lockdown period in Melbourne, a nationally representative Household, Income, and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey was conducted. The scientists used the survey data to evaluate the causal impact of the 112-day strict lockdown on human life. The analysis included almost 9500 individuals who are residents of Sydney or Melbourne. Sydney was not under lockdown during the survey. The scientists analyzed the Melbourne and Sydney outcomes to validate the impact of lockdown.
Human life dimensions before and during lockdown
The study revealed that the lockdown had impacted human life positively and negatively. Regarding negative impacts, a significant reduction in mental health and increased body mass index (BMI) and loneliness were observed during the lockdown. Regarding positive impacts, an induction in physical activity and a feeling of being safe was noticed. No significant impact of the lockdown was observed on weekly income and labor supply.
The analysis of Sydney outcomes revealed almost similar changes in human life as observed in Melbourne. Only one difference was an induction in weekly income among residents in Sydney, despite unchanged work hours.
Given the similarities in outcomes, the scientists have further analyzed whether the observed changes are due to factors other than lockdown that have impacted Sydney life where no lockdown was implemented.
Causal impact of lockdown
A separate set of analyses was conducted in the study to measure the causal impact of lockdown in Melbourne. Multiple controlling factors were adjusted for the analysis, including age group, marital status, educational status, and numbers of members, including young children in a household.
The findings revealed that the lockdown has significantly affected some of the domains of human life, including health, health behaviors, social connectedness, and labor supply and income.
In the health domain, including general and mental health and bodily pain, a significant reduction in mental health was observed among women. However, general health and bodily pain remained unaffected by the lockdown.
In the health behavior domain, a significant induction in physical activity was observed among women during lockdown. A trend towards increased alcohol consumption was observed among men. However, no significant impact on body mass index was noticed for both men and women.
A significant reduction in social connectedness was observed among men. Although no impact on labor supply, salary, and receipts of government transfers was noticed, a significant reduction in workhour occurred for both men and women during the lockdown.
Inequalities in lockdown outcome
The highest impact of the lockdown was observed among mothers with children younger than 15 years. They showed a significant reduction in mental and general health and increased loneliness. Although the mothers showed a gradual improvement in mental health over time, a gradual deterioration in their general health was observed during the lockdown.
Among men, the highest impact of the lockdown was observed for those who lived in mobility-restricted areas. Interestingly, no significant impact of the lockdown was noticed in the most vulnerable populations, including socioeconomically deprived people, people with pre-existing mental health issues, and people who live alone.
The study highlights that mothers with young children are more likely to get affected by lengthy lockdowns. However, strict lockdowns do not seem to have any major impact among socioeconomically deprived people and those with pre-existing mental problems.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.