The Covid-19 crisis has meant huge economic change, from how and where we work to who gets to work at all. Hence the row about if and when we return to the office. But this crisis has turned our personal lives upside down too, the sheer scale of change creating stress.
Research reveals the size of the challenge to our mental health. UK data shows that almost 20% of us are reporting symptoms of depression, double the pre-pandemic norm.
This matters. We know that poor mental health and unhappiness make us less productive at work and contribute to relationship breakdown.
Everyone is affected, but not everyone is affected equally. For those aged 16 to 39, the share reporting depression symptoms has almost tripled to 30%. German research gives us further insights into what’s causing this catastrophe, comparing the wellbeing of parents and non-parents. The two groups had similar trends pre-crisis, but parents saw bigger falls in wellbeing once schools and childcare providers closed.
Mothers’ wellbeing is most affected, matching wider research showing that, while women have not been more likely to lose their jobs than men, mothers are doing so more than fathers, in part because they face the biggest burden of lockdown – childcare.
The lesson? This week’s return to school is crucial to our children’s futures, but also to many parents’ wellbeing in the here and now.
•Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org