Maternal psychological distress & mental health service use during the COVID-19 pandemic

J Affect Disord. 2020 Nov 1;276:765-774. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.07.081. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Background: Mental health problems are increasingly recognized as a significant and concerning secondary effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research on previous epidemics/pandemics suggest that families, particularly mothers, may be at increased risk, but this population has yet to be examined. The current study (1) described prevalence rates of maternal depressive and anxiety symptoms from an online convenience sample during the COVID-19 pandemic, (2) identified risk and protective factors for elevated symptoms, and (3) described current mental health service use and barriers.

Methods: Participants (N = 641) were mothers of children age 0-8 years, including expectant mothers. Mothers completed an online survey assessing mental health, sociodemographic information, and COVID-19-related variables.

Results: Clinically-relevant depression was indicated in 33.16%, 42.55%, and 43.37% of mothers of children age 0-18 months, 18 months to 4 years, and 5 to 8 years, respectively. Prevalence of anxiety was 36.27%, 32.62%, and 29.59% for mothers across age groups, respectively. Binary logistic regressions indicated significant associations between risk factors and depression/anxiety across child age groups.

Limitations: Cross-sectional data was used to describe maternal mental health problems during COVID-19 limiting the ability to make inferences about the long-term impact of maternal depression and anxiety on family well-being.

Conclusions: Maternal depression and anxiety appear to be elevated in the context of COVID-19 compared to previously reported population norms. Identified risk factors for depression and anxiety across different child age ranges can inform targeted early intervention strategies to prevent long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on family well-being and child development.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Depression; Maternal; Mental health services.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological Distress*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Young Adult