A new study has confirmed what might come as no surprise to parents and other unpaid caregivers: The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on their mental health.
The survey, published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that parents, unpaid caregivers of adults, or people in both roles were five times more likely to experience symptoms of mental health problems during the pandemic than were people not in those roles. About 70 percent of the caregivers surveyed reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, trauma or stress related disorders, or suicidal thoughts.
The new survey highlights the challenges faced by parents during the pandemic: As schools around the country closed to in-person learning and child care facilities were shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many parents were left juggling work responsibilities while helping their children navigate remote learning. The situation contributed to an exodus of women from the workforce, many of whom were forced to choose between their job and caring for their children.
The mental health effects were worse for those who hold dual roles of parent and unpaid caregiver to an adult: The survey found they were eight times more likely to experience serious thoughts of suicide compared to people with no caregiving responsibilities. The study also found that having someone to rely on for support lowered the odds of experiencing mental health symptoms for parents and caregivers.
“Together, these results suggest that parents and caregivers might benefit from tailored mental health services. For caregivers, and especially persons with dual responsibilities of parenting while also caring for adults, increasing access to, awareness of, and use of support groups and respite services might help to alleviate the caregiving workload,” the authors wrote in the study.
The study surveyed 10,444 people nationwide online in English. Forty four percent of respondents said they were parents of children, unpaid caregivers to an adult, or both. More than 70 percent of parents or caregivers reported they also had a job.
The Samaritans 24-seven crisis helpline can be reached by calling or texting 877-870-4673. People experiencing a crisis can call also the Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.