Study finds health, wellbeing, and food security of families deteriorating under COVID-19 stress


The ongoing disruptive changes from efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are having a substantial negative impact on the physical and mental well-being of parents and their children across the country, according to a new national survey published in the journal Pediatrics.

Families are particularly affected by stressors stemming from changes in work, school, and daycare schedules that are impacting finances and access to community support networks, according to the five-day survey of parents across the U.S. conducted June 5 through June 10 by Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

The results showed 27 percent of parents reported worsening mental health for themselves and 14 percent reported worsening behavioral health for their children. Additionally, 24 percent of parents reported a loss of regular childcare, according to the study.

The impact of abrupt, systemic changes to employment and strain from having access to a limited social network is disrupting the core of families across the country. Worsening physical and mental health were similar no matter the person's race, ethnicity, income, education status or location. However, larger declines in mental wellbeing were reported by women and unmarried parents, the study said.

Parents with children under age 18 were surveyed to measure changes in their health, insurance status, food security, use of public food assistance resources, childcare, and use of healthcare services since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Since March, more families are reporting food insecurity, and more reliance on food banks, and delaying children's visits to health care providers. With COVID-19 cases and deaths on the rise around the country, families may continue to experience higher levels of need and disruption, according to the researchers.

The proportion of families with moderate or severe food insecurity increased from 6 percent to 8 percent from March to June. Children covered by parents' employer-sponsored insurance coverage decreased from 63 percent to 60 percent.

Families with young children report worse mental health than those with older children, pointing to the central role that childcare arrangements play in the day-to-day functioning of the family.

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