This paper aims to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and mental health of necessary entrepreneurs in Brasilian favelas, the social problems they experienced and implications for public health social work. The study used structured in-person interviews within selected Favela's, with a sample size of 721 entrepreneurs, aged between 16–70 years. All participants both worked and were resident in 15 out of the 27 Brasilian federal states. The bespoke questions explored socio-demographic questions, sought information on their entrepreneurship, health and administered the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale for Health. The results highlighted that many entrepreneurs have engaged in this form of enterprise due to economic necessity, with 64% of women and 43.6% of men identifying increased levels of anxiety through the pandemic, with the presence of children in the family being statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05 chi-square test) for anxiety. Of the 9.8% sample respondents have accessed the health care service and for women with children, the impact of the pandemic accentuated existing problems of childcare and patriarchy. We conclude by highlighting the importance of universal and accessible health and mental health support and care, their ongoing accessibility, along with the importance of social work during crisis.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

Cite as

Spolander, G., Garcia, M., Tomlins, R., Leal, F., Borges, R. & Sukumar, A. 2024, 'Entrepreneurship in the favela: negotiating precarity and mental health during COVID-19', Social Work in Public Health, 39(1), pp. 48-61. https://doi.org/10.1080/19371918.2024.2316874

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Last updated: 14 March 2024
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