Working women report poor mental health, with stress higher among working moms: Poll

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TORONTO — Mental health concerns are on the rise among Canada’s working women one year into the pandemic — particularly among mothers, according to a new survey by The Prosperity Project and CIBC released Monday.

The poll, conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights, found women were much more likely than men to experience feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, with the findings worse for working moms.

More than half of working mothers reported feeling stressed, while 47 per cent felt anxious and 43 per cent felt depressed, the survey found.

Working moms worried about their children's safety and helping them with schoolwork and felt guilty about not spending enough time with them, the poll found.

During the second wave of the pandemic, the survey found women were more likely to consider quitting their job, asking for reduced working hours or taking a position with different working conditions.

“Many working mothers are feeling trapped," Pamela Jeffery, the founder of The Prosperity Project, said in a statement.

"They don’t see a way out, so they often end up having to sacrifice their careers.”

While the poll suggested the pandemic may be taking the biggest mental health toll on working moms, it appeared racialized working mothers may be worse off.

Among women who identified as a visible minority, 41 per cent said they believe that women are less likely to be considered for jobs after the pandemic compared to 29 per cent of white women.

Overall, 44 per cent of women said they worry they will face an economic recession and lack of job prospects once the pandemic is over.

“Childcare will improve women’s employment," Jeffery said. "It will improve their mental health. It will improve family flexibility — for women and men. This absolutely needs to happen."

Meanwhile, Pollara vice-president Lesli Martin noted that the pandemic's impact on mental health has clearly worsened since a poll last August.

“Worse still, many women expect the levels of anxiety, stress and depression to increase if the pandemic were to continue for another three months," she said in a statement.

The Prosperity Project is a not-for-profit organization launched in May 2020 with the aim of ensuring Canadian women are not left behind in the COVID-19 recovery. Its partner organizations include Enterprise Canada, CIBC and Pollara.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 and included 1,003 adult Canadians.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press