March 25, 2023 12:42 am

Local News

How the pandemic has affected women’s mental health in Pennsylvania

Credit: iStock

Armand Jackson

Since early 2020, when COVID-19 became a global health crisis, researchers have noticed a real disparity in the rise of anxiety in women throughout the pandemic in comparison to men. The National Center for Health Statistics partnered with the Census Bureau to conduct the Household Pulse Survey and rapidly monitor recent changes in mental health. The survey was conducted between April 2020 and March 2022. 

A common trend in the data was that through the course of the pandemic, on average, women had a much higher indicator of anxiety or depression based on reported frequency of symptoms, in comparison to men.  The Kaiser Family Foundation has gathered and published data that yielded similar results from adults who reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder throughout the pandemic. In Pennsylvania, the discrepancy is wide, where women occasionally have indicators up to 20.9% higher than men. 

So what is contributing to this mental health crisis? The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, through a study published in The Lancet, discussed how countries with high COVID infections rates, lockdowns that restrict mobility, school closures, mental health-care systems being under-resourced and disorganized in service delivery, and being trapped at home with potential domestic abusers all contribute to this rise of anxiety in women. Women also face higher burdens as primary caregivers which adds another layer of anxiety. A co-author of the study, Alize Ferrari, stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many existing inequalities, and social determinants of mental health. 

In order to help alleviate this issue, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently launched the initiative Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters. This multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign intends to expand mental health resources and alleviate the stigma associated with reaching out for support. Governor Wolf stated: “The steps I’m outlining today are just the beginning of what I plan to grow into a large-scale effort to combat mental health issues in Pennsylvania.” For women in Pennsylvania who have experienced higher levels of anxiety during this pandemic, this statewide effort could prove very beneficial.