Women more likely than men to check on neighbours during first year of pandemic

·3 min read

Women were more likely to check on neighbours and provide practical help than men in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Women, older people and those in rural areas tended to be more involved in local social and support networks than men, younger people and those in urban areas, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS collected and analysed data from several of its surveys to give an indication of the UK’s Britain’s social capital between March 2020 and March 2021.

This term describes the extent and nature of our connections with others and the collective attitudes and behaviours that support a well-functioning, close-knit society.

It found that similar proportions of men and women in the UK in March 2021 believed others in their neighbourhood can be trusted (62.1% and 62.0%).

Women in Britain were more likely to say they had checked on neighbours who might need help at least once in the previous week than men (60.8% versus 49.7%) between May and August 2020.

They also were more likely to feel that they would receive support from their community if they needed help (73.6% versus 65.5%).

And in March 2021, 29.6% of women in the UK were providing practical help, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning and childcare, to those not in the same households.

This compares with 22.5% of men.

When comparing 2019-20 and 2020-21, the proportion of women in England who borrowed items or exchanged favours with their neighbours rose from 34.9% to 38.5%.

And the percentage of women who believed that in general most people can be trusted increased in England from 60.6% to 64.4%, while there was no change for men.

More women than men reported feeling that they belong to their neighbourhood (66.3% versus 63.1%) in 2020-21.

The ONS found that social support networks in Britain tended to increase with age, with 65.8% of people aged 65-74 checking on neighbours, compared with 41.3% of 16-24-year-olds, between May and July 2020.

And in March 2021, 36.5% of those aged 50 to 64 years in the UK reported giving practical help to family, friends or neighbours who did not live with them.

Neighbours of Annemarie Plas, 36, a Dutch national living in south London who created the weekly 8pm Clap For Our Carers, in south London joining the applause (Aaron Chown/PA)
Neighbours of Annemarie Plas, 36, a Dutch national living in south London who created the weekly 8pm Clap For Our Carers, in south London joining the applause (Aaron Chown/PA)

The ONS said older age groups may have experienced a unique burden of care during the pandemic.

Young people aged 16-24 were the only age group which saw a substantial rise (11.2 percentage points) in the proportion involved in civic activism in England for 2020-21 compared to the previous year.

This may be a temporary increase due to high-profile events, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, and demonstrations around climate change, Brexit and violence against women and girls, the ONS said.

But it could also be an “early sign” of a general shift in young people’s involvement in civic matters, it added.

Rural areas mostly appeared to have stronger community ties than urban areas, it found.

But despite the improving neighbourhood connections for women, the gender gap between men and women feeling safe when walking alone at night has widened.

Some 69.5% of women reported feeling safe compared with 89.5% of men in England and Wales between 2020-21.

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