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NWCI survey findings show 85% of women have increased care responsibilities since COVID-19

Published: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

85% of women said their caring responsibilities had increased since COVID-19, while 55% said they had less time for their mental health, according to an online survey of nearly 1,500 women carried out by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) for a week in May.

The survey forms part of an online campaign on women’s mental health launched today on NWCI’s social media with the tagline “When you care for others it can be harder to mind yourself.” Running over three days across NWCI’s social media channels, the awareness campaign aims to highlight the impact that caring for others can have on women’s mental health, including during the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen many women’s caring responsibilities increase.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said, 

“While caring for family can be a deeply rewarding activity, caring and running a household can also be physically and emotionally demanding and can put a strain on women’s wellbeing. Our campaign focuses on how women’s experiences of caring can impact their mental health, and make it harder to seek support. As part of our conversations about mental health, we need to acknowledge how women’s caring responsibilities can affect their wellbeing.  To take women’s mental health needs seriously we must ensure a better sharing of care responsibilities between men and women, and also better State supports in the form of public and affordable childcare, and of course a universal health system.”

“The overwhelming response to our women’s experience of caring during COVID-19 survey showcases just how much women’s care responsibilities have increased due to the pandemic. School and childcare closures and the needs of older relatives, who may be sick or cocooning, have put extra pressures on many women to look after their families and loved ones. This can be especially challenging for lone parents.”

Dr Cliona Loughnane, Women’s Health Coordinator, NWCI said,

“We know that women do the majority of care for children, older people, and the home. As COVID-19 has made visible this often-invisible responsibility, it is important to start a conversation about how women’s caring responsibilities effect the time they have for their own mental health and may also impact their ability to seek support. It is also crucial we understand that some women face more challenges when caring. For example, we know that 86% of those who are parenting alone are women[1], while migrant women living in Ireland often don’t have the help of their wider family.”

Dr Cliona Loughnane, Women’s Health Coordinator, NWCI said,

“The aim of the campaign is to draw attention to issues impacting women’s wellbeing, to affirm women’s experiences and to signpost women to supports. The first step is to take women’s mental health seriously. Women’s experiences must be at the centre of policy and decision-making, particularly as we emerge from the pandemic. We need to ensure universal mental health services, as they develop out of Sláintecare and implementation of the new national mental health policy, provide access to the services women are asking for, including community-based, talk-therapy.”

Dr Aisling Sheehan, Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing in HSE Health and Wellbeing, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting us all differently, and it is clear from this research that women’s caring responsibilities are impacting on their mental health and wellbeing. For those that need mental health support there are a variety of services provided through the HSE and our funded partners that can be found on YourMentalHealth.ie. An example of these services is a recently launched text-based mental health service, funded by the HSE, which provides everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis. For some, picking up the phone and asking for help can appear daunting but texting 50808 will connect you to a trained listening Crisis volunteer. The confidential service is free and available anytime.”

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues you can find information and guidance on HSE yourmentalhealth.ie and nwci.ie/womens_mental_health

NWCI’s health work is supported by programme funding from the Health Service Executive.

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For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWCI, Tel. 085 858 9104, silkep@nwci.ie

Notes to Editor

The National Women’s Council of Ireland released an online survey, via SurveyMonkey, which asked women about their experiences of caring during COVID-19. The survey ran for 1 week (15th -22nd May 2020) and there were 1,466 responses. Not all respondents completed every question. Questions focused on women’s informal, unpaid care. The survey asked women to self-report on their caring responsibilities during COVID-19, as well as questions on the time they had, and the activities they were using, to look after their own mental health and wellbeing.

  • Majority of respondents aged 36-50 (62%).
  • 62% respondents are employed (21% essential workers outside the home; 79% working from home), 9% self-employed, 12% full time homemakers.
  • 85% said their caring responsibilities had increased since the outbreak of COVID-19 (52% said their caring responsibilities had increased ‘A lot’; 33% ‘a little’; 15% ‘not at all’).
  • 55% said that since COVID-19 they had ‘less time than usual’ to look after their mental health and wellbeing (22% ‘same amount of time’; 23% ‘more time than usual’).
  • Our online campaign on women’s mental health is based on various elements of NWCI’s health work, including: our 2018 report ‘Out of Silence – Women’s mental health in their own words’, which brought the experiences of women to the fore; our conversations with young women as part of FemFest; and consultation with our member groups.


The Samaritans Emotional support to anyone in distress or struggling to cope. Freephone 116 123 every day 24 hours a day or email jo@samaritans.ie

Text 50808: A free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis. Text HELLO to 50808, anytime day or night.

YourMentalHealth Information Line – 1800 111 888 The YourMentalHealth information line is a phone service you can call any time. A member of our team can tell you about:

  • the mental health supports and services available to you
  • how to access different services provided by the HSE and our funded partners
  • opening hours


[1] CSO (2019). Women and men in Ireland. Available at: https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-wamii/womenandmeninireland2019/