The impact of inequality on mental health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review.

Benjamin Gibson, Jekaterina Schneider, Deborah Talamonti, Mark Forshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research on pandemics and emergencies has shown that such events often widen health inequalities in society and have a greater impact on socially disadvantaged groups. No review has so far looked at the impact of inequality factors on mental health outcomes during the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). The aim of the current review was therefore to assess the impact of inequality factors on mental health outcomes during COVID-19. After registration on PROSPERO, a systematic review was conducted for papers published up to July 31, 2020, using the databases Google Scholar, PsycINFO, PubMed (MEDLINE), and Web of Science. The following inequality factors were considered: education, income, employment, occupation, material and social deprivation, age, immigrant status, sexual orientation, functional health, cultural/racial background, sex, gender, and place of residence. Out of 1,931 references, 117 studies (300,061 participants) were included. Female sex, being of a younger age, financial insecurity, lack of access to clear messaging/information about the pandemic, proximity to large infection sites, having existing physical and/or psychological health conditions, and being subjected to abuse/stigma because of one’s identity as a member of an ethnic or sexual marginalized group predicted mental health inequalities. More research is required on how inequality affects mental health in less studied vulnerable populations, such as ethnic, sexual, and gender marginalized participants, as well as how inequality factors interact to affect mental health in the long term. Recommendations for researchers, mental health practitioners, and public health authorities for mitigating adverse mental health outcomes in vulnerable populations are outlined.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)101-126
JournalCanadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

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