A recent study revealed how mothers were impacted by the changes that came during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it had some surprising results.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open on Friday, involved 11,473 mothers who were all a part of the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program with the National Institute of Health.
It found two different groupings of these mothers, with one group experiencing “low change,” i.e. “’lower changes in health behaviors, fewer coping strategies, and lower social isolation,’” and the other going through “high change.”
The group of “high change” included 8,412 mothers and the second group of “low change” involved 3,061 mothers. The mothers who experienced higher levels of change had more education, higher incomes, and higher cohabitation. However, this group also said financial matters were stressful more often and they had a higher likelihood of saying the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their health care.
On average, there were more pandemic-related stress symptoms reported from the mothers who experienced higher levels of change. They “reported greater life disruptions, social isolation, and coping behaviors to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and changes to their health behavior routines,” according to the study. The group was comprised of around 66% of white mothers, as well, which was not anticipated because of the research that has shown that negative impact the pandemic had on minorities.
In both groups, mothers who were more impacted by the pandemic experienced more pandemic-related traumatic stress. However, the association was not at the same level.
“Across both clusters, higher pandemic-associated hardships, coping mechanisms, and behavior changes were associated with higher PTS, and these associations were greater in the low change cluster,” the study noted.
Theresa “Tracy” Bastain, the lead author of the study, said that the group of scientists wanted to look at mothers because many lost their jobs and income, and also were largely in charge of of taking care of kids or teaching them when schools were disrupted.
“It really came down to change and those mothers whose lives carried on much as they normally had, did not report as much stress,” Bastain added. “It was the mothers who had big disruptions who reported the higher levels of stress.”
“I think it shows that we need to think about traumatic experiences like natural disasters, pandemics or mass shootings more holistically,” said Bastain. “There is a wide range of hardships that people experience from these events that we need to understand so that we can protect people from long term effects.”
A press release noted that a main conclusion of the study is that a lot of the mothers reported having symptoms of acute stress disorder, which “is a mental health problem that can occur in the first month after a traumatic event. The symptoms of ASD are like PTSD symptoms, but you must have them for longer than one month to have PTSD,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We can’t conclude from this research that these mothers will have negative mental health outcomes from the pandemic, but it raises that concern,” Bastain said.