Covid-19 and work dimensions: a socio-historical analysis of impacts affecting men during the pandemic


Thiago da Silva Santana1, Anderson Reis de Sousa2, André da Silva dos Santos3, Natalia Maria Freitas Coelho3, Arthur Pinto Silva3, Lorhany dos Santos Santana3, Janaína de Oliveira Castro3, Magno Conceição das Mercês3


1 State University of Feira de Santana, BA, Brazil

2 Federal University of Bahia, BA, Brazil

3 University of the State of Bahia, BA, Brazil



Objective: To apprehend the impacts affecting men residing in Brazil during the Covid-19 pandemic concerning work dimensions. Method: A socio-historical, qualitative study carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic with 400 adult and old males residing in Brazil. An on-line form was applied. Data were analyzed based on the Discourse of the Collective Subject, interpreted according to the Dialectic Historical Materialism. Results: The Covid-19 pandemic did cause and intensify impacts: overload resulting from home-office jobs; inadequacies as to the work and exposition to contamination by the Coronavirus; stress and fear to be contaminated at work and losing employment; difficulties to maintain economic/financial conditions and unexpected adaptations in work performance. Conclusion: The dimensions of the work environment did intensify both social and health vulnerabilities for men in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, rebounding on even higher exposure to SARS-CoV 2 and daily life stressors.

Descriptors: Covid-19; Men’s Health; Work.



A worldwide sanitary-humanitarian crisis was installed with devastating impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, with overlapping factors (social, political, economic) that have been intensifying social and health conditions inequalities(1,2). Some countries, such as Brazil, were already included in the hunger list(2). In this country, thousands of people are not sure to have something to eat the next day. The number of unemployed persons in precarious working conditions reached nigh levels, thus becoming a global and significant health issue to be prioritized in the public agenda(3).

Therefore, great continental dilemmas and challenges are to be dealt with, not just to hold back the dissemination of SARS-CoV2 and the occurrence of Covid-19, but also to reduce social impacts brought about by the pandemic context, which is leading to threats and economy, political and bio-social unbalances, affecting mainly work dimensions(2). This includes gender relations, such as those that greatly affect the male public, the most vulnerable to Covid-19 and to the disaggregation of the work structure.

Negative impacts on persons, communities and societies observed as the Covid-19 pandemic arose can not yet be measured. Problems in the economic, political, social, cultural public-private and legal sectors have been disproportionally affecting unfavored groups whose subsistence depends of their daily work(3), leading to poverty and misery. In the current context, public managers and leaders must urgently make correct decisions in order to classify, hold back, measure and manage the crisis – particularly the economic crisis, as social inequalities and iniquities do overlap in this scenario(2).

Considering theses issues, the World Health Organization (WHO) stresses the need to carry out conjoint actions that must be coherent, responsible and resolute, so as to assure security and protection will be maintain, and to preserve human dignity, specially to avoid mass unemployment(3) – a reality already seen in many countries. In this purpose, it is up to the State the central responsibility to protect both female and male citizens against the consequent threats and calamities. Failure in this task will endanger the legitimacy of public and private institutions, as well as the reputation of political leaders. This is a complex issue, specially in a country where the socioeconomic situation was already in clear deterioration even before the pandemic(4).

In this scenario, one could reasonably expect that one deleterious and most critical effect would be on the work market, affecting both men and women(4). As to sex and gender, in a number of countries males have been more strongly affected by Covid-19. The United Kingdom registered a mortality rate of 255.7 deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants, more prevalent among black men that, consequently, were the most affected by unemployment(5). Although SARS-CoV2 does not discriminate its victims by sex, men were majority among the contaminated, specially those with co-morbidities and pre-disposition to serious respiratory diseases(6). Yet there is not enough investigation that might have analyzed the relation between work, the pandemic and the actual impacts on health – an expressive gap, which upholds the relevance of the present study.

It is worth remarking that factors such as biological and chromosomic characteristics, life style and health behavior have already been remarked in the literature(7). Nevertheless, when it comes to Brazil, where some 56.7% of those affected are males(8), one must study and establish the co-relation with socio-historical dimensions, as well as gender/maleness and structural issues, in order to understand the actual impacts of the pandemic(8-10), with emphasis on work relations. Those factors have already been remarked in a Brazilian study, which approached aspects such as family income reduction and/or per capita income when compared to the minimum wage, considering the 59% of workers who lost their jobs(11). This evidence itself raises the urgency of investing in investigations and political actions in this field, particularly concerning the public health and the production of care in nursing, aiming at effective actions and interventions in this area.

The present study was guided by the research question: what impacts the Covid-19 pandemic is causing on work dimensions for men who live in Brazil?

For health and Nursing teams, this study will provide subsides to elaborate policies in the collective health field, and will provide grounds for building up plans of care actions potentially active and effective, so as to reduce actual impacts of the pandemic on work dimensions. This shall allow for advancements in the scientific knowledge and in the nursery practice in the work area, the men’s health and pandemic events. It shall allow health professionals to put in practice actions focused on confrontation mechanisms considering the huge exposure to stressing situations, such as the pandemic, with potential to improve daily practices, mainly considering the labor environment those men are exposed to. Furthermore, this study will deal with dialectically exposed emotions and feelings using interdisciplinary approaches, considering they arise from a long exposure to the pandemic stress, aiming at an active adaptation to the reality and to preserve self-images, as well as to control and refrain emotions unchained by the daily stress in work dimensions.



A socio-historical, qualitative study, structured on the paradigm of the Historical-Dialectical Materialism(12,13), integrating a macro-research under the title: “Life experience of men in the context of the new Coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) pandemic in Brazil: a focus for health.”

The research was realized in virtual environment, using the on-line platform hosted by Google Forms®. Adult men aged over 18 years, living in Brazil, who were experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic old were recruited. The sample for this study was com posed by 400 men, selected at first upon conveniency, using the consecutive recruitment technique named snowball(14). A hybrid strategy was outlined, leading to the invitation for the public in digital social networks: Facebook®, Instagram® and WhatsApp®, and relationship apps: Grindr® and Scruff®, and electronic mails. Men in transit in international trips were excluded. Initially, five sample groups were formed (one from each region of the country), stimulated to invite new participants from his own social network, leading to 27 sample groups registered later (one from each Brazilian state). The final sample resulted from the analytical process, where the theoretical data saturation – data co-occurrence, convergence, complementarity and theoretical density – were taken into account.

Participants were informed about the project by means of individual invitations delivered through the social networks and by e-mail. Additional information was present in the section where the data collection tool was presented, by means of the Free and Clear Consent Form in the image modality, hosted in the platform where the form was placed, with special remarks on risks and benefits. This document was also made available by e-mail and/or print registration, Data collection occurred during April and June 2020, based on the self-applied form filled in by the participants, which include both open and closed questions, available in virtual environment and sent back likewise.

The form was internally validated (pre-test) by members of a research group and, externally, by a group that included 20 men. Validation data were not incorporated to the final sample. Therefore, closed questions were related to socio-demographic, labor and health characteristics, and open questions referred to the Covid-19 pandemic experience. In order to apprehend empiric data, participants were asked: how are you dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic? Did the Covid-19 affect and/or jeopardize you in any way? Tell me more about this. At the end of the form, participants could find contacts for psycho-social services that were offered free of charge. Besides, the official page of the project in the no Instagram® – @cuidadoasaudedehomens – was divulged, with care and educational contents focused on men’s health.

The initial findings that led to the results of the present study were raised through the qualitative investigation questions. To analyze those answers, the research team, which included four researchers in charge of collecting and four researches in charge of supervising/evaluating, used the theoretical sample premises, which made it possible to elucidate convergences, divergences and complementarities(15). The members of the team had expertise in approaching techniques and in the method, and took part in remote meetings and training via Google Meet® on calibration/limits involving data collection, processing, codification and analysis.

Data obtained were submitted to careful reading and analysis, and then were organized, systematized and codified, counting on the support of NVIVO12 processing software. Finally, in order to make sure quality criteria would be respected and the qualitative research would be applied with due rigor, the COREQ directives were followed.   

The data methodological analysis was based on the Discourse of the Collective Subject (DCS), an inductive method to access the collective thinking construction and reveal general aspects of a social phenomenon. Thus, by applying this method, it was possible to apprehend Key Expressions (KE) and Central Ideas (CI) and/or Anchorages, which compose the Synthesis-Discourses that uphold the representation of a problem by the collectivity(16). Thus, the fragments allow for discerning speeches and the men’s DCS in a theoretical/reflexive manner and to interpret those fragments based on the Historical-Dialectical Materialism (DHM)(12,13) in their fundamental precepts, theoretical basis (laws of the DHM): a) the dialectics assumes that contradiction is inherent to the reality of things; b) the individual defines the conscience, nor the contrary; c) every matter is dialectic in its very essence, the opposite is static, metaphysic; and d) the dialectics constitutes the study of contradiction in the very essence of things(12,13).  

The project was approved by the Ethics Committee on Research of the Nursing School of the Federal University of Bahia, under opinion number CAAE: 32889420.9.0000.5531 e 4.087.611. Ethical precepts were respected, there included the adoption of specific criteria meant to grants security and protection of data produced via virtual platform, as well as those used by researchers involved in the project: anonymity, confidentiality and trustworthiness.



Men’s collective discourse shed lights on the impacts produced on the labor world during the Covid-19 pandemic. Coming next, the synthesis-discourses make clear the Central Ideas that ground the phenomenon analyzed herein.


Synthesis-discourses: among historicity, dynamicity and totality – the reality of what explains the contradictories of labor dimensions and the impacts experienced by men during the Covid-19 pandemic

The reality experienced by men who reside in Brazil shows contradictory landmarks that cross with each other in dynamic and materialistic relations when trying to understand the pandemic context. Fundamental DHM postulates were identified in males’ discourses, such as historicity, dynamicity and totality, which did configurate CI, voiced in Synthesis-discourses, as follows.

CI 01: From socio-economic “transformations” enforced by production means to the overload provoked by home office work:


[…] I have been suffering increasing work demands since the beginning of the quarantine. Now I spend more time every day on labor activities, and yet I feel unable to carry out home office, and adaptation to this kind of work is not easy, as conditions for that work to occur at home require even more focus and discipline, not to mention other challenges, as daily stirrings now take place inside the domestic environment itself, which totally affects both the rhythm of the work and the relations with that activity. Besides, with more time in confinement, the labor period is longer, and expectations are higher. Sometimes I feel overloaded, exhausted and stressed because I have no escape valve nearby. I have been feeling exhausted (men’s DSC).


CI 02: From the absence of autonomy in the full structure to the experience of inadequacies at work and exposure to contamination by SARS-Cov-2:  


[…] I feel insecure while performing the jobs during the pandemic, as I must share the environment with many colleagues and, besides, there are many inadequacies at my working location, such as lack of supplies to grant the workers both prevention and protection, and for the difficulty in testing to know among those working with me who have the Coronavirus. This unsafety situation is distressing to me, makes me worried and tense in the working ambiance, and that also results from the fact that I feel guilty because I might be transmitting the virus to those who are near me, as I have been exposed when moving to the working ambiance (mens’ DSC).


CI 03: From the centrality of human praxis in the production/reproduction of human life to stress and fear of catching the illness and losing job:


[…] I have to live side by side at work with colleagues who did catch Covid-19, some of them developing serious conditions. This situation frightens me and makes stress even stronger, as now I must use individual protective equipment for long periods, feeling most time at work that I might be contaminated. Besides, I am afraid to lose my job, as the pandemic led to an economic crisis all over the country, and also due to the unstable ambiance in my work environment, and therefore many problems did affect my mental health. That fear of losing my job brough about the disability feeling, which led to a mental illness resulting from the panic syndrome (men’s DSC).


Men’s discourses reveal the need to deal with transformations imposed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 in their territories, forcing them to stand up to contradictory process modifications in the social organization dynamics – that of the work, explained below.

CI 04: From the objectivity in the independent reality of natural forms to the impacts on the maintenance of both economic and financial order:   


[…] we have been living a continuous and very wide internal confusion, as internal expectations to produce pleasure and financial resources were totally affected with the outbreak of the pandemic. This is because this issue involves a very strong pressure concerning responsibilities one man must take over, such as, for instance, keeping finances, caring for the family and for people who depend on me. This moment has been causing strong apprehension and frustration, and affects me psychologically, causing anxiety disturbances and concern with money shortage, and I felt that impact closely, as my financial situation was affected, and I realized that prices in the supermarket were very high. Besides, I become involved after all with the challenge of breaking up the belief that I have to be the sole provider, even in a scenario where the entire economy is unsettled, as, being a man, I tend to feel responsible for the well-being of other people as well. Finally, the new economic uncertainties lead me to face new restlessness, mainly for fearing not to count on a financial stability (men’s DCS).   


CI 05: Between the meaning of work as an element for transforming nature and the mediation of social relations that must be adapted when it comes to work performance:


[…] I can’t tell how for long I will remain doing what I used to do before, and I had to re-invent myself to keep my place. Being an autonomous worker and depending on the people’s movement became a big problem I have to overcome. It is challenging, as along with changes in the work, I also had to stay far from my family, friends, and this situation also obliged me to adapt and develop new routines and new ways to get along and relate with the domestic environment, which turned to be the work ambiance, and these new adaptations have been leading me to overcome apprehension moments, by taking attitudes prudently (men’s DCS).



When it comes to work dimensions, evidences explicitly show the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the life of men residing in Brazil. They demonstrate the dialectic in the collective discourse of men in a specific materiality/concreteness and historicity of the present pandemic context.

By taking for reference the lens of material and dialectic analysis, nursing and health professionals will be able to access that theoretical-political knowledge, so as to dela in a conscious way with the phenomena of dis-personalization imposed by the work, which came to fully absorb men’s social life in face of so huge overload. One must be aware that the present study has limitations that have to do with the participants recruitment, which, due to consecutive indication, might have led to regionalization, limiting reach to low-income men. The research in virtual environment limited data from being deeper when compared to face-to-face researches.

The social division of labor, the phenomenon responsible for stratifying and attaching objective value to the activities, thus changing its dynamic, is one of the MHD analysis objects(12,13), present in the socio-economic transformations leading to the unequal conditions in labor dimensions, which allow for observing that such transformations take place in different locations and contexts in one certain socioespacial totality. From this point of view, one may recognize that, away from one specific location, all resources – innovations, populations, money – would be mere abstractions, and that movement of locations is precisely what characterizes the space as a whole, revealing the singular totality of the subjects (men) in the social life(12,13); and therefore, contributes for understanding the new socio-historic reality experienced by men with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil, as shown in our findings.

This new reality is in consonance with the concept of the labor social division, understood as one complex system that integrates different useful jobs, carried out separately and marked by qualitative specificities and differences(17). In the present context the concept requires deeper observation as to its historicity and dynamism character, as the phenomenon experienced by men must be situated in time and space, which will vary in rhythm/period – how elements are distributed and located(12,13).

From the material and dialectical perspective, referring to a “work place” and the way subjects do articulate around it is a challenge still to be overcome, and this can be verified specially in contexts of globalization and its technical-scientific-informational environment of functionality(12,13), when one observes that the men investigated in our study did expose the deleterious effects of changes in labor conditions in the globalized world. The Information Technology and telecommunications are enabling a series of connections that easily and rapidly allow for the distant execution of different activities and interaction, which is booming in the current pandemic context(17).

This context has massified the labor “uberization” phenomenon deeply rooted on vulnerability, intensification, individual and collective losses, insecurity and fragilization on the workers organization, which forced men into labor practices that are different, remote, mediated by Information Technology (home office), legally supported by the neologism “telework”, favoring, to some extent, some who could enjoy that possibility when compared to a great majority who did either keep or lose their connections and had to expose themselves in unsound work contexts.

It is worth remarking that, even prior to the pandemic, relations with those tools were already fragile concerning the public-private, freedom and exposure, control and unbalance limits(17), as presented in the outcomes of the present study, when the contradictory is denounced: one has to work exposed to the risk of catching Covid-19. Therefore, relations that lead to problems in daily life, such as overloading(18) and changes to the routine of millions of workers in many countries – Brazil, for instance –, situations already mentioned in the international literature(18,19).

As the epidemic lasts longer and longer, harming repercussions on work conditions can be observed, especially for men in social vulnerability conditions due to difficulties for accessing formal jobs, often exposing them to slavery-like conditions. Other repercussions, such increased unemployment rates and exploitation of workers, add up to other troubling factors, such as losing work capacity, dismissal resulting form post-Covid-19 sequels, absenteeism, presentism and other contexts involving job-related illnesses lead to catastrophic social and economic effects(10). Attention is drawn to this complex cataclysm, which must be controlled and our results have highlighted.

Concerning the absence of men’s autonomy in a specific structural totality, the work dimension proved to affect the quality of life, health and socio-affective relations, considering that, in daily conditions of insecurity and needs that result from labor inadequacies, many men did not have equalitarian access conditions to protection from/confrontation to Covid-19, thus revealing a very unequal scenario.     

The emergent need for accomplishing tasks, requirements and labor obligations, with always shorter terms, requiring greater efficiency, has been causing psychic suffering and damages regarding life satisfaction that are intensified during the pandemic(18,19). Actions must be urgently planned and carried out to promote well-being at work, stimulate stronger socio-affective relations and supportive networks, to promote social security and reduction of health inequities, considering the advent of social and health indicators that are both labor and life-unfavorable, still plunged into the relations between the proletarian class and the employer sector, which holds the production means and controls the sale of the labor force, denounced by the theoretical structure of the MHD(12,13).

When considering the centrality of the human praxis materialized in both the production and reproduction of men’s life, it is worth remarking the highly disaggregating effect the Covid-19 pandemic causes on men’s health, and how the effects of labor dimensions have been leading to and intensifying stress situations, launching negative feelings and emotions, such as fearing the Covid-19. Likewise, this scenario is connected to other contexts, that is, other than the labor activity, such as socio-spatial organization modes, urban and rural infrastructures, and inequalities in the access to basic rights. For many workers, that organization involves choosing between protection and income(18), and reflects a social order that stakes out those who shall take greater risks, and points to inequalities that, if one does not stand up to, might well become permanent.

The fear of being contaminated, specially in the work environment, associated with the stress caused by being apart from labor activities, which results from unemployment, and also by the new environment in home- office, are stressor elements that, in the pandemic scenario, have been disturbing those workers’ psychological stability(2). In order to reduce the impact caused by the stress, measures must be implemented, such as the offer of psychological support, investment in continuous communication and in work team, strategic actions meant to relieve both physical and mental stress, specialized assistance for those workers more susceptible to mental disorders. It must be highlighted the risk for men who undergo ordinary mental uneasiness and who are vulnerable to suicide during the pandemic, thus requiring particular attention(9). Considering their central role regarding the health care, nursing and health professionals are essential and indispensable for managing care to reduce the impacts on male health, establishing highly accurate interventions, transculturally and socially adapted by the communities.

As to the objectiveness of the independent reality of natural reactions to impacts on the economic and financial maintenance that affect men, one must keep in mind that the controversial scenario of the pandemic affects workers in different ways. This is particularly true for those in occupational tasks due to lack of options, who may undergo even deeper isolation, such as men in delivery activities. Thus, a number of men still fear the contamination and the possibility to transmit the virus to their relatives(10). Similarly, the impacts represent costs to be paid that tend to become heavier in contexts where the degradation of labor conditions is associated with fast evolution of the disease(20).   

The analysis of this new historical reality clearly shows the gender relation when, for instance, the roles of men and women in the family life are based on gender characteristics, which are learned and incorporated over history. Patterns that are socially legitimated evolve from transformations and conquests that are pushed by the feminist movement in the labor world, in the way people live and build gender identities, as one may see in the social maleness construction, in the fissure of the hegemonic manhood, and in the creation and maintenance of a symbolic system that guides and keeps up the life of both men and women(9-10).

It is worth stressing that the findings this study led to did reveal men’s concern about work – an attribute considered to be the utmost of masculinity in some societies, such as Brazilian society. Therefore, the impacts of the pandemic on the labor dimension challenge men’s position as family provider, their autonomy, freedom and financial self-sufficiency. And yet, as to the public environment dimension, the control and power territories historically under men’s dominium, which now may be leading to discomfort and scratches male characteristics – and therefore, causing distress(9-10).

Considering the relation between what work means as a transformer element of both the nature and the mediation of social relations to new adaptations on how men residing in Brazil perform at work, the setback turned to be one more dilemma to be overcome: on one side, men must deal with financial instability, the fear of losing their jobs, the changes in characteristics of the place they work at, the reallocation of categories – for instance, among those who now receive the emergency support offered by the Government; on the other side, they still have to face the challenge of keeping their patriarchal, hegemonic look of the man-work and/or the worker-man(6,9-10).

The study enabled us to disclose the real effects on work dimensions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Men’s discourse shed light on socio-economic transformations carried out by changes in the work ambiance. On one side, the overload resulting from home-office practices did result in self-overcharging, requiring new adaptations due to changes in the routine, thus demanding new attitudes; on the other side, precarious work conditions led to insecurity, affliction, concern, stress, fear, guilt and a lot of other feelings and emotions that resulted from being exposed to the virus, to the risk of losing the job, which would affect the possibility of keeping economic and financial conditions. It is worth remarking that the new adaptations imposed by the pandemic obliged men to re-invent themselves if it was to keep and provide for themselves and for their families, yet reducing and controlling the impacts on work dimensions.



The discourse of the collective subject of men who live in Brazil made evident the socio-economic materiality of the outbreak of negative impacts, created and intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic, which did degrade and jeopardize work dimensions in this country. Those impacts led men to dialectically denounce the physical and mental overburden they experienced due to home-office work/telework; the existing conditions/inadequacies in the formal work ambiance for those who have to perform physically close to their work posts, exposed to SARS-Cov-2; the increasing stress, the fear of being contaminated and losing their jobs; the decay of economic and financial conditions; and new adjustments required to keep their performance level at work. Therefore, the present study brings important contributions for both the Nursing and the Health science and practice, shedding lights on new findings that might be the grounds for decision making in the clinical-assistance and managerial areas involving men’s health in contexts of sanitary crisis and in the labor world.



The authors have declared that there is no conflict of interest.



No funding.




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Submission: 08/17/2021

Approved: 01/21/2022



Data collection: Santana TS

Data analysis and interpretation: Santana TS, Sousa AR

Data analysis and interpretation: Santana TS, Sousa AR, Marcês MC

Textual writing and/or critical review of the intellectual content: Santana TS, Sousa AR, Santos AS, Coelho NMF, Silva AP, Santana LS, Castro JO, Marcês MC

Final approval of the text to be published: Santana TS, Sousa AR, Santos AS, Coelho NMF, Silva AP, Santana LS, Castro JO, Marcês MC

esponsibility for the text in ensuring the accuracy and completeness of any part of the paper: : Santana TS, Sousa AR, Marcês MC