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The COVID-19 Mental Burden on Working Mothers

The pandemic continues to take its toll on the state of mental health in our country. According to Mental Health America, as of October 2020, the reported levels of anxiety and depression were at an all-time high since the start of the pandemic in the U.S.1  Even more recently, the Kaiser Family Foundation published a report in February 2021 noting about four in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, an increase from one in 10 adults who reported these symptoms between January to June 2019.2 The numbers are concerning.

Equally concerning is many individuals experiencing mental health symptoms avoid or delay seeking treatment out of fear of not being accepted.3

“We are passionate about promoting acceptance and education about mental health. Through our efforts, we aim to not only connect patients with third-party support and resources, but also to increase knowledge among those less aware of mental health struggles and disparities,” said Serina Fischer, Vice President, Neuroscience Franchise at Takeda. “In everything we do, we strive to help create an environment of acceptance and understanding where people feel encouraged to seek professional help and have open conversations about their symptoms with healthcare providers.”

Among the hardest hit are working mothers

There’s no denying that many people have experienced increased isolation and stress over the past year, but according to a survey conducted by CARE International, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on women's mental health.4 Women were three times more likely than men to report rising anxiety, stress, and mental health challenges. Even under non-pandemic circumstances, women are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression than men, and there are numerous factors that may contribute to this, including reproductive hormones, response to stress, and social pressures unique to women.5

There are many types of depression, one form being Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) where a person feels sadness nearly every day and loses interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.6 He or she may also experience difficulty thinking clearly, feel tired often, feel restless or sluggish. MDD can persist over extended periods of time and have a negative impact on an individual’s ability to sleep, work, eat and maintain interpersonal relationships.

Working mothers have been particularly exposed to stressors over the past year. Forced to juggle heightened work and career demands, remote online schooling for their children, limited child-care options and household duties – working mothers are under immense pressure and shouldering the mental burden of the pandemic.7

Despite the obvious struggles, there have been some unexpected upsides, with more people talking about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and motivated to seek help. According to ADDitude Magazine’s survey of how people with ADHD are coping during the pandemic, of 2,365 adult survey respondents, nearly three-quarters of newly diagnosed adults said “fallout from the pandemic” prompted them to pursue an ADHD evaluation.8

Factors such as work overload, increased child-care demands, and pandemic-related job loss have contributed to women increasingly exiting the workforce as compared to men.9 The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 617,000 women, nearly half of whom were between the ages of 35-44, left the workforce in September 2020. This departure from the workplace has impacted women almost eight times more than men, with only 78,000 men leaving the workplace during the same time period.9

“It’s critical that we acknowledge the heightened pressures on working mothers today that are most likely contributing to the increased rates of mental health challenges reported by women over the past year,” said Fischer. “All individuals should be encouraged to seek professional support and guidance from a healthcare professional on an appropriate treatment plan to help manage symptoms of depression and/or ADHD.”

Third-party resources, such as Mental Health America’s Tools 2 Thrive toolkit, provide information and coping strategies for common struggles that affect mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) launched the You Are Not Alone campaign to help increase awareness and engagement with digital graphics and messages to make connection easier during a climate of physical distancing. Now more than ever, it’s important for people with MDD and ADHD to talk with their doctor. Tools like our ADHD Checklist can help guide the conversation.

For more information and helpful resources, visit MHA, NAMI and CHADD.


  1. org. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.mhanational.org/research-reports/2021-state-mental-health-america
  2. Kaiser Family Foundation. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
  3. org. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination
  4. org. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.care.org/news-and-stories/press-releases/financial-insecurity-hunger-mental-health-are-top-concerns-for-women-worldwide/
  5. net. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.women.html
  6. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
  7. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicebroster/2021/01/18/are-working-mothers-bearing-the-mental-burden-of-coronavirus/?sh=690707684632
  8. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-symptoms-diagnosed-treated-in-pandemic/
  9. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/07/economy/women-workforce-coronavirus/index.html