Closures of closed schools in Covid “hurt mothers’ mental health but did not affect fathers” | Mental Health

School closures in England during the Covid lockdown severely damaged the mental health of mothers but had no impact on the well-being of fathers, research shows.

Childcare and home schooling as well as their own work have made more mothers of preteen children feel depressed, have trouble sleeping and see themselves as worthless.

The pandemic has increased mental health problems among parents in general. However, mothers were affected the most, with fathers barely affected, according to the study.

Closing schools to stop the spread of the coronavirus has had “a significant detrimental effect” on the mental health of mothers, academics from the universities of Essex, Surrey and Birmingham have said. However, “for fathers it made no difference.”

The findings are based on a study of how 1,500 parents of children aged 4 to 12 in England mentally coped with the school closures that accompanied the first lockdown, which began in March 2020. Back to school school at the beginning of June – primary students in reception and in first and sixth year – and those whose offspring did not return until September.

Mothers whose sons and daughters missed the entire summer term were the most affected. Their responses to 12 questions of the General Health Questionnaire, an established way to measure mental well-being, showed a significant drop from before the start of the pandemic.

The researchers found that mothers with at least one child who was not in the priority age groups to return to school last June “are more likely to report losing more sleep worrying, feeling constantly under tension; feeling that they cannot overcome their difficulties; [and] feeling miserable or depressed ”, they say in a report for the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex.

Other effects include that women lose self-confidence, see themselves as worthless, and feel unable to enjoy their normal daily activities.

“The impact of children’s out-of-school education on the mental health of mothers is considerable and represents a significant hidden cost of confinement. Our study shows – for the first time – the pressure of school closings on the mental health of mothers, ”said Dr Laura Fumagalli, researcher at ISER and one of the four co-authors of the report.

“We estimate that school closures could be responsible for about half of the decline in maternal mental health during the pandemic. It is striking that, on average, the mental health of fathers does not appear to be affected by school closures, ”she added.

The authors identified a sharp increase in loneliness, social isolation and loss of contact with peers in and out of school as the main trigger for declining mothers’ mental health. It was more important than having to work overtime or losing a job, they found.

Mothers whose children were not given priority to return to school were more likely to report feeling lonely than those whose children returned in June.

The results are consistent with Previous search showing that women in general, and mothers living with young children in particular, were among the groups that suffered increased mental distress during the pandemic, as were people with poor underlying health, those from low-income households and people of Asian descent. This is the latest study to find that men’s mental health has remained largely unchanged.

“The results of this study are extremely worrying. Incredible parents, especially mothers who have disproportionately taken on the colossal burden of juggling home schooling and work during the pandemic, are physically and mentally exhausted, ”said Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson, spokesperson. word of his party for health, welfare and social care.

“Maternal mental health has suffered badly as a result of multiple lockdowns, and poor government support just hasn’t helped matters.

“Their botched reopening of schools, in which they failed to address parents’ concerns about unclear and inconsistent advice, is just one example of how the government has completely let mothers down. during a time of great distress.

“Moms must feel like they’ve had the rug swept from underneath them. The next public inquiry into the management of the pandemic must examine as a priority its impact on mental health, ”Wilson added.

Data on the 1,500 parents in the study came from Understanding Society, the UK longitudinal study, and was collected in April, May, June, July, September and November of last year.

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