Data released by the Office of National Statistics show that experiences of Covid-19 differ widely between different groups within the population.

Published on the 26th May 2020, the dataset captures survey results taken between 3rd April and 3rd May 2020 where participants from across the UK were asked about their experiences with Covid-19.

Findings reveal the different experiences between women and men in Yorkshire and Humber in terms of coping strategies regarding coronavirus. Whilst 82.5% of women were likely to rely on friends and family for support, 75% of men were likely to do the same. More women turned to exercise as a coping strategy, with 66.8% of females exercising compared to 52.6% of males. This higher tendency for women to exercise more than men parallels findings in most other regions, with the exception of Wales where men were more likely to use exercise as a coping strategy than women.

Despite the lack of access to gyms in Sheffield due to closures in response to Covid-19, Sheffield gyms and exercise organisations have been providing Sheffield with online exercise advice and home workouts. One example includes SIV who have posted a number of home workouts for people to try on their website, including one which centres the sofa.

In addition to exercise, the dataset looked at the use of work as a coping strategy. Men displayed a higher tendency to rely on work as a coping strategy when dealing with the effects of Coronavirus in Yorkshire and Humber, with 57.6% of men reporting doing so compared to 47.3% of women. This relationship wasn’t reflected in the national figures, however, with results taken from across the whole of the UK showing that the tendency of women or men to rely on work was relatively equal overall in the UK. This contrasts with the use of exercise or family and friends as a coping mechanism, where the general imbalance between men and women in Yorkshire and Humber was likewise reflected in national gender comparisons too.

Differing levels of anxiety were also evident. When asked how anxious the survey participants felt the day prior, 39.4% of women in Yorkshire and Humber regarded their anxiety levels as high compared to 32.2% of men. Those aged between 50 and 64 were the most worried about the effect of coronavirus on their life in Yorkshire and Humber. Perhaps surprisingly, people aged between 16 and 34 years old in Yorkshire and Humber exhibited some of the highest levels of concern and worry regarding the effect of coronavirus on their lives of those in that age category across the whole UK, with 83.6% of them saying they were either very or somewhat worried. This contrasted strongly with the areas of South East and East of England where both found 66.8% of those aged 16 to 34 years old in each area felt the same.

Efforts to promote mental well-being in Sheffield during lockdown can be observed in mental health organisations. Sheffield Mind, a local mental health charity, spoke to me about the nature of their services in Covid-19: ‘at the start of lockdown, a lot of face-to-face work transferred to phone calls (some Zoom). We are delivering between 550-600 hours a week of support in this way’. Their services include ‘Listening Line’, a phone line for those aged over 50 years old who are feeling anxious about the effects of Covid-19.

Finally, the data offered an insight into how different regions had been staying busy during lockdown. Yorkshire and Humber has clearly been developing its green fingers, with the region being one of the most likely across the UK to be gardening in lockdown. This is likely to reflect, in part, the fact that 93% of those surveyed in Yorkshire and Humber said that their house had access to a private garden. Although many regions reported similar figures, there were notable deviations, namely London, where just 77% of those surveyed said their house had access to a private garden.

For those in Sheffield who have been practicing gardening during lockdown and are currently Council tenants, Sheffield City Council recently announced a return to their annual gardening competition where they ask those living in Council accommodation to submit images of their garden. More information about the competition can be found here: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/gardencompetition?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term= . For those looking for advice and tips regarding gardening in Sheffield, the Facebook group ‘Sheffield PlantSwap’ has continued, in lockdown, to be a space where gardeners can exchange tips and advice for growing plants.

The data shows, then, that divisions regarding people’s experiences with Covid-19 exist not just within regional areas but also across them. As lockdown continues and more data is compiled regarding people’s experiences, the reasons behind these differences may become more evident. Further research is necessary to determine what factors are behind the evident differences in experiences of Covid-19 between subsections of the population.