Uncovering Gender Differences in the Mental Health Toll of COVID-19

A Preview into IBI’s Research on Mental Health

Dr. Joe Aller, DHA, MBA, CPA
Director, Analytics and Research, IBI

Recent data from the CDC shows the number of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression has quadrupled from pre-pandemic levels. Information for employers on how to mitigate the effects of this dramatic increase is lagging as the workforce continues to suffer and maintaining productivity is tested.

IBI is responding to this information need with upcoming research detailing the demographic, geographic, and economic differences in impacted workers. Understanding all workers are not the same and will respond differently to different employer-sponsored anxiety and depression mitigation efforts, IBI's research will help define the significant worker attributes for a more targeted and effective intervention strategy. To help us understand how these issues may be affecting employees, we’ve analyzed data from the Household Pulse Survey – a joint venture by the CDC and U.S. Census Bureau.

As employers acknowledge the effects of the pandemic on their workforce and the strains placed on maintaining productivity, tailored mitigation efforts can be considered. For instance, the research shows women, in particular, display a higher occurrence of reported feelings of anxiety or depression[1] than do their male counterparts. Women are more likely to take on childcare and household duties than men. Additionally, with school closures, the increased burden of childcare may be falling disproportionately on women. IBI research suggests workplace policies such as flexibility in start and end times could be helpful for parents who are teleworking and have children doing virtual learning at home. Female employees taking leave have added anxiety and depression – ensuring they have access to resources while away from work may help with a smooth transition when they return.

This gender gap remained when looking at the effects on feelings of anxiety and depression due to a work location change. For instance, there was a larger increase in anxiety or depression among female employees who changed to telework compared to those who continued to work at the job site or who teleworked prior to the pandemic. Women also had an increase in anxiety or depression when their kids were home because of a school closure compared to when kids continued to go to school in person.

Gender difference is just one attribute analyzed in IBI’s upcoming mental health research. Utilizing IBI’s full analysis on demographic, geographic, and economic factors will guide employers to making informed, targeted, and effective decisions on maintaining worker productivity during these challenging times.

+Stay tuned for a webinar of our findings and panel discussion with industry experts and other supporting resources around our findings.


[1] Anxiety or depression was measured by responses from four questions which have been shown to be associated with diagnoses of major depressive or anxiety disorder.