Parental stress, depression and anxiety have again increased since new national restrictions have been introduced, according to the latest report from the Oxford University-led COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics (Co-SPACE) study, based on data from over 6000 UK parents.
Participating parents and carers recently reported an increase in symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, especially during the period from November to December. This reflected symptoms such as difficulty relaxing, being easily upset or agitated, feeling hopeless, and lacking interest and pleasure, feeling fearful and worried, as well as being more irritable, over-reactive and impatient. This mirrors parent and carer reports of high levels of stress and depression between April and July last year, which were followed by lower levels of these difficulties between July and September.
Cathy Creswell, Professor of Clinical Developmental Psychology at the University of Oxford and co-lead of the study said, ‘These findings build on others that suggested that parents were particularly vulnerable to distress during lockdown 1. Our data highlight the particular strains felt by parents during lockdown when many feel that they have been spread too thin by the demands of meeting their children’s needs during the pandemic, along with home-schooling and work commitments. We are particularly concerned about the level of strain felt by parents in low income families, those in single parent families, and those supporting children with special educational needs.’
Indeed, the data show that parents and carers from certain households have been particularly vulnerable to elevated mental health symptoms. Higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety were reported by parents from single adult homes and lower income families (< £16,000 p.a.), as well as those who have children with special education needs and/or neurodevelopmental differences.