INED researchers tell us about impacts of the first lockdown at different ages and life periods

Reading time: 3 minutes

(Interview conducted in April 2021)

The first lockdown in France put people’s housing, employment, and income conditions as well as their family relations and their methods of balancing family and work life to the test. In Spring 2020 INED took part in the following three internet surveys using representative samples of the French population: 

  • Coconel, based on responses from approximately 2,000 adults rapidly selected using the quota method;
  • Sapris-Enfant, which collected information on nearly 6,000 9-year-old children already participating in the ELFE/Epipage2 cohort surveys co-conducted by INED and INSERM;
  • Epi-COV, a public statistics survey to which 135,000 persons drawn from INSEE files responded; INED wrote the sociodemographic questions for this survey, which in some cases were asked over the phone. 

INED researchers present some of the survey findings on how lockdown affected older persons, the most vulnerable to infection, and adults and children, not as directly impacted.  

For older persons, did neighborly solidarity increase during lockdown or did they instead feeling increasingly isolated during that period? *

Question answered by INED researchers Joanie Cayouette-Remblière and Anne Lambert: 

During the first lockdown, the intensity of exchanges between neighbors remained stable: 4 in 10 French people reported providing a service in their neighborhood in Spring 2020, and 29% reported receiving one. These figures are close to those for regular times. 

However, the profile of service recipients changed considerably: older persons received more help from their neighbors than in ordinary times. But it was difficult for them to reciprocate: among the people aged 75 or older who received a service from a neighbor during lockdown, only 60% offered a service, as opposed to 85% in normal times. The 60-74 age group played a key role as service providers during the health crisis, offering more services than they received.

Though older persons were most often on the receiving end of services, their sense of isolation increased considerably during lockdown. However, the group most heavily affected by a sense of isolation was young people aged 18 to 24. 

What are the risks of COVID-19 exposure at work for people of working age? **

Question answered by INED researchers Émilie Counil and Ariane Pailhé: 

According to the first wave of the EpiCov survey of 135,000 persons conducted by INSERM and the Department of research, evaluation, and statistics, over 2/3 of people who were working before the first lockdown continued to go to their places of work at least part time between mid-March and mid-May 2020. Many were “essential” workers in jobs that could have exposed them to the virus. An example is health workers: 11% were infected by late May, as opposed to 5% of the population on average. Being on paid leave offered temporary protection, as did remote working, with sharp social disparities. Nearly 50% of managers were able to work full time from outside the office as opposed to 8% of low-skilled workers and less than 1% of unskilled workers. Conversely, working outside the home was the sole option for 41% of low-skilled workers, as against 15% of managers. The next survey waves will tell us how these disparities—a dynamic vector of inequality in confronting the epidemic—have evolved. 

What impacts did type of housing have on children’s daily life and how they experienced lockdown? ***

Question answered by INED researcher Xavier Thierry:  

Children living in a small apartment found lockdown the most difficult. Their psychological well-being, sleep, and relations with their parents were more disrupted than for children living in an urban house. Even when socioeconomic differences between these two categories of residents are controlled for, children’s adaptation to lockdown was conditioned by their housing situation. This comes as no surprise, since the essence of lockdown is to keep individuals confined to their homes. The constraint is heavier for children, though, who, in contrast to their parents, do not have to go shopping or to work. With neither school or leisure activities with their friends, their moments outdoors depended greatly on what their parents were willing to do. To assuage the strain of being stuck in the house and to limit children’s screen time, parents living in an apartment (that is, without a garden) went out for walks with their children twice as often as parents living in an urban house. 

* Anne Lambert and Joanie Cayouette-Remblière (Population and Societies, June 2020)

** Emilie Counil and Ariane Pailhé (Questions de santé publique, Oct 2020 et Etudes et Résultats, 1167, Oct 2020)

*** Xavier Thierry (Population and Societies, Jan 2021)