Child care stress linked to higher likelihood of burnout: 5 study findings

During the COVID-19 pandemic, child care stress was prevalent among healthcare workers and associated with burnout, anxiety and depression, and intent to reduce hours or intent to leave the job, according to research published July 18.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, is based on a survey conducted between April and December 2020 of 58,408 workers at 208 healthcare organizations. Respondents included 11,409 nurses, 15,766 physicians and 5,415 administrative staff.

For the survey, healthcare workers were asked, "Due to the impact of COVID-19, I am experiencing concerns about child care," with responses ranging from 1, not at all, to 4, a great extent. A score of 3 or 4 was considered as having child care stress. Respondents also answered questions regarding fear of COVID-19 exposure or transmission, anxiety, depression and workload, as well as measures of burnout, intent to reduce hours in one year and intent to leave the job within two years. More information about the methodology is available here.

Five findings, according to the study:

1. Child care stress was present in 21 percent of respondents.

2. Respondents with child care stress had a 115 percent greater likelihood of anxiety or depression compared to healthcare workers without child care stress.

3. Respondents with child care stress had an 80 greater likelihood of burnout compared to healthcare workers without child care stress.

4. High child care stress was associated with 91 percent greater likelihood of intent to reduce hours in one year.

5. High child care stress was associated with 28 percent greater likelihood of intent to leave the job within two years.

Authors cited several study limitations, including its self-reported nature as well as uncertainty as to whether healthcare workers acted on their intentions to leave their job or reduce hours.

Overall, they concluded: "The COVID-19 pandemic has had a myriad of effects on [healthcare workers] that put our workforce at risk. These data show an association between [child care stress] and burnout, anxiety and depression, and [intent to leave] and [intent to reduce hours]. Institutional interventions supporting child care resources for [healthcare workers] may attenuate burnout, anxiety, depression, [intent to reduce hours], or [intent to leave]."

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