The journal Pediatrics has just published an alarming national survey report which indicates that ongoing disruptive changes from efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are having a substantial negative impact on the physical and mental well-being of parents and their children across the country.
Families Affected By Stress
According to the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital’s June 5 to June 10, 5 day survey, American families are particularly affected by the stressors stemming from changes in work, school and day care schedules, all of which are impacting finances and access to community support networks.
In fact, the main results indicated that 27% of parents reported worsening mental health for themselves, 14% reported worsening behavioral health for their children, and 24% of parents reported a loss of regular child care. While the survey results showed that the participants’ location, educational status, income, ethnicity, and race, had little bearing on their declining mental and physical health larger declines in mental well-being were reported by women and unmarried parents.
The well-being of families across the US, is being shattered at its very core, due to the stress of having access to a restricted social network, and the effect of drastic, systemic changes to their gainful employment. As we are all too aware, the vast number of people who have already lost their jobs, and are likely to lose them later this year, is a very serious matter with profound consequences.
The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. employers shed nearly 30 million positions from payrolls this spring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns—but that is just one of several varying estimates of job destruction. Other data suggest layoffs might have topped 40 million, while another count shows only about 20 million are tapping unemployment benefits. However, regardless of the figures, the job losses brought about by COVID-19, are bound to cause families enormous mental strain.
The Age of Children is Relevant
Of note, families who have younger children report worse mental health than those with older children. This points to the crucial central function which child care plays in a family’s day-to-day functioning. Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, senior VP and chief of Community Health Transformation at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University, stated, “The loss of regular child care related to COVID-19 has been a major shock to many families. In almost half of all cases where parents said that their own mental health had worsened and that their children’s behavior had worsened during the pandemic, they had lost their usual child care arrangements.”
In summary, clearly, serious attention needs to be paid to the aforementioned forms of family stressors. – Indeed, they extend far beyond the current coronavirus situation, and measures to address them post-COVID, need to be put in place.