As 2022 approaches, the COVID-19 pandemic’s strain on workers’ mental health has worsened, with certain groups hit hardest, including parents and those under the age of 40.
According to the latest Mental Health Index from benefits administration provider LifeWorks, 15% of Americans reported poorer mental health in October than before the pandemic, as mental-health scores declined for the 19th month in a row.
Parents, young people faring worse than others
The October Mental Health Index showed that 34% of individuals under 40 years old felt they were "in crisis" or had concerns about their mental health and ability to cope. Meanwhile, only 8% of workers aged 50 or over said the same.
The findings echo a recent report from Schwab Retirement Plan Services, which showed that younger workers have suffered most from financial stressors related to the pandemic. Generation Z, in particular, expressed waning enthusiasm toward their prospects for retirement.
Another wide gulf appeared between working parents and non-parents — specifically:
- Parents were nearly three times more likely to report feeling "in crisis" or having concerns about their mental health and ability to cope.
- Parents were more than two times as likely to report serious physical health issues or concerns that they would develop chronic issues.
It’s not surprising that other studies reflect similar challenges faced by parents, particularly those who work remotely and carry the burden of monitoring children during work. A survey from the Mopria Alliance found that frequent distractions affected workers' productivity and mental health, with parents working remotely experiencing 50% more distractions than remote workers without children.
In addition, the LifeWorks Mental Health Index is one of many reports indicating that women in particular have been hit harder by pandemic conditions than men, perhaps in part because working mothers are shouldering more of the burden of childcare. In October 2021, the Mental Health Index score for women was -7.6, versus -3.9 for men.
Other groups also reported notably low Mental Health Index scores in the LifeWorks survey. Specifically, while the overall survey group had a score of -5.8:
- Managers averaged -7.1
- Those without emergency savings averaged -22.9
- Full-time post-secondary students averaged -19.7
Physical health concerns also weigh
It's not just mental health scores that have dropped since the beginning of the pandemic — physical health has taken a hit, too.
Among the findings:
- 25% reported serious physical health issues or were concerned that they would develop a chronic issue
- 12% said their physical health had declined since the start of the pandemic
- Managers were nearly twice as likely as non-managers to report serious physical health issues or concerns of developing a chronic issue
In addition to managers, these physical problems disproportionately affected some of the same groups who reported mental health challenges: parents and younger workers.
In past reports, workers have shared some of the ways they believe their employers can help relieve the burden, suggesting that burnout could be best alleviated by an increase in schedule flexibility (84%), four day work weeks (83%) and decreased workloads (82%).
Methodology: The October 2021 Mental Health Index, a monthly survey by LifeWorks, was conducted online from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, 2021, with 5,000 respondents. All respondents resided in the United States and were employed within the last six months.
While the survey didn’t indicate which definitions it used for the various generations, many pollsters use cutoffs similar to those of Pew Research: Generation Z is described as those ages 18 to 23, millennials as those 24 to 39, Generation X as covering ages 40 to 55 and baby boomers as 56 to 74.