Mental health issues jumped for women at start of pandemic, study finds

Mental health issues among U.S. women increased early in the pandemic and may be driven, in part, by greater socioeconomic challenges, according to a study published April 5 in the Journal of Women's Health.

Researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed 3,200 women in the U.S. April 10-24, 2020.

About 40 percent of women reported experiencing at least one health-related socioeconomic risk before the pandemic, such as housing instability or transportation challenges. By April 2020, 49 percent of women reported experiencing a new or worsening health-related socioeconomic risk amid the pandemic. Of these, 29 percent had not previously experienced such issues. 

Food insecurity was the most common challenge women reported, at 40 percent, followed by transportation difficulties (17 percent), and interpersonal violence (12 percent). About 29 percent of women reported anxiety or depression symptoms, nearly double estimated rates before the pandemic, researchers said.

"Given very high rates of these problems, we're really concerned about the current capacity of our mental health system," study author Marie Tobin, MD, a professor of psychiatry at UChicago Medicine, said in a news release. "Women are principally responsible for parenting, family caregiving and other essential work — they are key to managing and recovering from this pandemic, and now are afflicted by very significant socioeconomic risk levels that appear to be drivers of anxiety, depression and traumatic stress."

To view the full study, click here.

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