Parents and unpaid caregivers of adults in the United States reported far higher rates of mental health problems than people who did not have these roles during the coronavirus pandemic, federal researchers reported Thursday.
About 70 percent of parents and adult caregivers – such as those who care for the elderly – and about 85 percent of people who were reported to have negative mental health symptoms during the pandemic, versus about a third of people who don’t perceptions, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study also found that people who were both parents and caregivers were eight times more likely to have seriously thought about suicide than people who weren’t.
“These results show that parents and caregivers, especially those balancing the roles of both parents and carers, had higher levels of negative psychological symptoms than adults without this responsibility during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the authors say .
“Caregivers who had someone to rely on were less likely to develop negative mental symptoms,” they said.
The report follows myriad anecdotes and multiple studies suggesting an increase in mental health problems among parents and caregivers during the pandemic. However, the new CDC report found that “without prepandemic mental health data in this sample, it is unknown whether adverse mental symptoms were caused or exacerbated by the pandemic”.
The study is based on data from English-language online surveys conducted by Qualtrics, a company that conducts commercial surveys for the Covid-19 Outbreak Public Evaluation Initiative to track Americans’ attitudes and behaviors during the pandemic. The data was collected December 6-27 last year and February 16- March 8 this year, and was based on 10,444 respondents weighted for US demographics, of whom 42 percent were identified as parents or adult caregivers .
The study found that the results may not fully reflect the US population as factors such as the surveys are only presented online and in English.
The surveys included screening items for depression, anxiety, Covid-19 trauma, and stress-related disorders, and asked respondents if they had had suicidal thoughts in the past month. Around half of the parents surveyed said they had recently had suicidal thoughts.
Elizabeth A. Rohan, health scientist at the CDC and one of the study’s authors, said in an interview that the large sample size of the study and broad definition of caregivers allowed for a full picture of people in this role.
“Our network recorded more people than other surveys,” said Dr. Rohan.
Dr. Rohan said the study increased the need to destigmatize mental health problems among caregivers and for better support systems. Communication is key, she said, and “it doesn’t have to be professional help”.
She added, “We cannot underestimate the importance of connecting with one another,” which is helpful whether the person is “a trusted friend, family member, or professional.”
If you have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). For a list of additional resources, see SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.