Long-term social restrictions and lack of work activities during the COVID-19 pandemic: Impact on the daily lives of people with intellectual disabilities

M.A. C. Voermans*, M.C. Westerman-den Boer, T. Wilthagen, P.J.C.M. Embregts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Purpose:
Lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic may have had a disproportionate impact on the daily lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Many of them had to deal with limited social contacts for an extended period. This study explores in depth how people with intellectual disabilities in the Netherlands experienced their daily lives, in particular due to lack of access to regular work activities. 

Materials and methods:
Eight participants with intellectual disabilities were interviewed. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was employed in conducting and analysing interviews. 

Results and conclusions:
Analysis yielded three overarching themes that are conceptually linked. Participants experienced a prolonged lack of social connections that resulted in experiences of social isolation and feelings of loneliness. This led to different kinds of struggles: either internal struggles involving negative thoughts or depressive feelings, or a perceived threat to their autonomous position in society. Meanwhile participants had to sustain their sense of self-worth in the absence of work activities. The findings emphasise the importance of social opportunities through the access to work activities for people with intellectual disabilities. Interventions are suggested to help reverse the increased social inequalities and enhance rehabilitation via work activities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Implications for rehabilitation:
More awareness may be raised among authorities, employers and the general public about the significant value people with intellectual disabilities attribute to meaningful social connections, in particular through work activities. Also, more awareness may be raised about the potential adverse effects of the loss of work activities and social connections on the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities. Providing social support to others may help people with intellectual disabilities to construct social valued roles, either in or outside the work situation. Professionals and employers can support people with intellectual disabilities to find opportunities to provide social support to others. It is important to invest in sustainable and innovative post-pandemic community participation initiatives and particularly in accessible post-pandemic employment support, for example by organising paid in-company training placements. It is essential that professionals support people with intellectual disabilities to enhance their sources of resilience and coping strategies, that may have diminished as a result of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4122-4132
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Volume45
Issue number24
Early online date2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • ADULTS
  • Covid-19
  • EMPLOYMENT
  • OPPORTUNITIES
  • QUALITY-OF-LIFE
  • daytime activities
  • employment
  • intellectual disabilities
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • job loss
  • meaning of work
  • social contacts

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