Global dividends plummeted by $108.1bn to $382bn in Q2 this year, according to Janus Henderson’s latest Global Dividend Index, marking an underlying decline of 19.3% - the biggest fall seen since the study was first launched in 2009.
All regions except the US suffered a drop in payouts, with the UK and Europe seeing the biggest falls at 54% and 45% respectively on an underlying basis.
France and Spain were the only two individual larger stockmarkets to experience a sharper fall than the UK, as more than half of the UK's companies either cut or cancelled dividends altogether.
The UK's dividends were most heavily impacted by the likes of HSBC, Shell, Lloyds and Glencore, although the study notes several large UK companies had been paying out an "excessively large portion of their profits as dividends for some time", meaning the pandemic is giving many of them "an opportunity to reset investor expectations, which will make future payouts more sustainable".
Europe suffered a similar fate, with 54% of companies reducing their payments. Of these, two-thirds were outright cancellations.
While France and Spain were among some the most severely impacted with cuts of at 57% and 70% respectively, Sweden and Italy also struggled. Germany, on the other hand, saw dividends fall by just a fifth while Swiss dividends were flat in year-on-year terms.
Almost half of Europe's dividend cuts came from the banking sector.
While financials and the consumer discretionary sector saw the sharpest falls in payouts, healthcare and communications proved most resilient.
As such, US dividends actually increased by 0.1% with only 10% of firms cutting their dividends.
The report also noted that US companies set their dividends once per year and pay them in four equal instalments starting from Q4, meaning investors are more likely to see the impact of the pandemic on payouts near the end of the year.
Many US firms also opted to suspend share buyback programmes rather than cut dividends, which in 2019 totalled $700bn according to estimates by Goldman Sachs.
Dividends in Canada grew by 4.1%, as the coronavirus outbreak was less severe.
Japan also fared well on a relative basis, with four-fifths of companies actually increasing or maintaining their dividends while only four firms - including Japanese stockmarket giant Nissan - cancelled their dividends altogether. Overall, payouts in the country fell by 3.1% on an underlying basis.