Researchers from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business have tracked the mental health impact of the pandemic on Ontario working parents in a new report which suggests women have been hit harder and the age of children hasn’t been a major factor in wellness.

Work, Family, Life During a Pandemic focuses specifically on employed parents with dependent children, assessing three recognized indicators of well-being: perceived stress, anxiety and depressed mood.

Prof. Linda Duxbury

Prof. Linda Duxbury

“What is clear from the data we have collected is that the actions taken by governments and policy-makers throughout the pandemic have a notable impact on the mental health of those directly impacted,” says co-author Prof. Linda Duxbury.

“Any time schools or daycares are closed, we see an immediate increase in the stress and anxiety levels of working parents.”

The data was collected from weekly/bi-weekly interviews conducted between March and December 2020 with Ontario parents between 35 and 55 having at least one child under the age of 19 living in their home. Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 17, 2020, began re-opening in May 19, entered “stage two” on June 12 and reintroduced lockdown measures on Oct. 9, 2020.

“It is well-recognized that the pandemic is causing mental and emotional strain, which is often experienced as stress and anxiety,’’ says co-author Anita Grace, a Sprott postdoctoral fellow.

“Our research shows that stress and anxiety levels are not constant, but rather that they fluctuate over time. Our research also suggests that stress and anxiety are not experienced equally—women’s average stress and anxiety levels seem to be higher than men’s.”

Postdoctoral Fellow Anita Grace

Postdoctoral Fellow Anita Grace

Among other findings:

  • Changes in stress and anxiety over time were very similar for parents of children up to five years of age and those of children aged six to 12.
  • On average, participants reported low levels of depressed mood throughout the study.
  • Women experienced particularly higher levels of stress and anxiety than men in the fall and winter 2020.

The research was supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Mitacs.

This report, one of a planned series summarizing the impact of the pandemic, can help policy-makers understand key indicators of employee well-being over time and assist employers in supporting workers during and after COVID-19.

The entire report is available here.

Media Contact

Steven Reid
Media Relations Officer
Carleton University

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021 in
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