Mental Health Awareness Month

Pandemic tougher on women’s mental health

Pandemic tougher on women’s mental health

Millions of people around the world are facing mental health issues. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation, especially for women.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States – a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many people experience.

Mental health is an issue that has been brought to the forefront over the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a harsh toll on people all over the world. Isolation, stress or the loss of a loved one due to the pandemic are all having an effect on people’s well-being.

Statistics show that women – mothers in particular – are experiencing the effects of the pandemic to a higher degree. The combined pressure of job loss and build-up responsibilities, like homeschooling or caring for sick relatives, has caused increased stress and anxiety for women. Juggling family responsibilities is a source of stress for both women who are in the workforce and for those who are not.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.5 million women have left the job market since the beginning of the pandemic – compared to 1.8 million men – as they take on more responsibilities of homeschooling and everyday parenting. Additionally, more than two in five of the 12.2 million women’s jobs lost between February and April 2020 haven’t returned.

Women had ‘alarmingly high rates’ of mental health problems

The toll of the current crisis on women’s mental health is severe. A study at the University of Chicago Medicine, recently published in the Journal of Women’s Health, found that American women experienced increased incidence of health-related socioeconomic risks (HRSRs), such as food insecurity and interpersonal violence, early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This was associated with “alarmingly high rates” of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Other studies have also found evidence for higher rates of anxiety, depression and related issues, such as alcohol overuse, connected to the pandemic – but this is the first study to link early pandemic-related changes in HRSRs to mental health effects in women.

“Most national surveys tend to report aggregated findings rather than stratifying by gender,” said Stacy Lindau, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medicine-Geriatrics at UChicago Medicine. “Those early studies gave us snapshots of the health and behaviors of the whole population, but gave us limited insight on women. Yet, women constitute the majority of the essential workforce, including healthcare workers, and we wanted to make sure that women’s experiences were being documented.”

What’s the situation worldwide?

CARE International recently released “She Told Us So: Rapid Gender Analysis – Closing the Data Gaps to Build Back Equal,” a comprehensive report featuring first person accounts of over 10,000 participant views of the unique challenges faced by women during COVID-19.

The study found that 27% of women reported an increase in challenges associated with mental illness, compared to only 10% of men. Women especially point to skyrocketing unpaid care burdens as a source of this stress, in addition to worries about livelihoods, food, and health care. According to the study, women are also nearly twice as likely to report difficulty in accessing quality health services.

“The extra toll on women’s mental health makes sense given what we know about how many women have had to leave the workforce in order to care for children or other family members at home, or are dealing with an impossible and constant juggling act of kids, plus career, plus other responsibilities,” says Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD, head of research at the Mental Health Coalition.

Elevated mental health problems among pregnant/postpartum women

Additionally, a study published last month in PLOS ONE showed that during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, elevated posttraumatic stress, anxiety/depression, and loneliness were highly prevalent in pregnant and postpartum women worldwide.

Archana Basu, Ph.D., from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted an anonymous, online survey of pregnant and postpartum women in 64 countries.

Researchers found that substantial proportions of women scored at or above the cutoffs for elevated post-traumatic stress (43%), anxiety/depression (31%), and loneliness (53%). The vast majority of women (86%) reported being somewhat or very worried about COVID-19, including worries related to pregnancy and delivery such as family being unable to visit after delivery (59%), the baby contracting COVID-19 (59%), lack of a support person during delivery (55%), and COVID-19 causing changes to the delivery plan (41%).

Moonshot News is an independent European news website for all IT, Media and Advertising professionals, powered by women and with a focus on driving the narrative for diversity, inclusion and gender equality in the industry.

Our mission is to provide top and unbiased information for all professionals and to make sure that women get their fair share of voice in the news and in the spotlight!

We produce original content, news articles, a curated calendar of industry events and a database of women IT, Media and Advertising associations.

Nelly Polyzou

Nelly Polyzou

[email protected]

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

    Do you want an experienced opinion on a job issue?
    Moonshot Manager is here to answer!

      Moonshot community sharing thoughts and ideas, in a anonymous, safe environment.