The mental health of parents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the level of stress and anxiety in the parents. The mental health of the parents was also affected by their income and socio-economic status. These findings were included in the latest study of scientists from the SAS and the Institute of Psychology of the University of Prešov, who monitored changes in the parents´ mental health during the year and a half of the pandemic.
Due to the nature of the anti-pandemic measures that Slovakia has been following since March 2020, parents have become among the most vulnerable groups. They were exposed to concerns about the health of their children, problems related to distance education and working from home, or risks associated with declining or losing income. A research team from the Institute of Social Sciences of the Centre of Social and Psychological Sciences SAS (SvÚ CSPV SAV, v. v. i.) was interested in the extent to which the mentioned factors were reflected in the mental health of parents in Slovakia.
Since autumn 2020, they have carried out four waves of data collection (October 2020, December 2020, December 2021 and March 2022) on a representative sample of 2,000 respondents. The researchers monitored general anxiety and depression, as well as anxiety and stress associated with COVID-19.
“We found that the overall level of depression and parental anxiety during the pandemic showed signs of stability over time, but we saw more significant changes in the level of stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety due to the pandemic began to decline significantly after the first two waves of data collection, and, on the contrary, the stress associated with COVID-19 increased over time and its peak was observed in the third wave of data collection at the end of 2021,” explained the study co-author Denisa Fedáková from SvÚ CSPV SAV, v. v. i.
The mental health of the parents in the observed period was affected by the income and socio-economic status of households. “The lower the objective income indicators and the level of subjective socio-economic status, the higher the values of depression and anxiety reported by parents, as well as the values of anxiety and stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic," added the scientist.
In this context, the team of researchers points out that, in terms of recommendations for social policy-making, it seems important to pay increased attention to parents' feelings and concerns, as their mental health levels decline when their income and household financial situation, their own safety and safety of their children are threatened. Parents are important people in children's lives, and parents' mental health should be part of social policies.
The study is part of the project APVV20-0319 “Behavioural aspects of COVID-19: Mapping the COVID-related behaviours and psychological, social, and economic consequences of the pandemic.