HRE’s number of the day: depression among working women

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83: Percentage that depression levels among working women have increased since February

Working women’s level of depressed mood has increased 83% since February, versus 36% for working men, according to new research. Meanwhile, anxiety levels for working women have increased 52% since February, versus 29% for their male counterparts. Results were gleaned from a May index from Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform. The index, also in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions and One Mind at Work, is based on 500 anonymized assessments randomly selected among thousands of Total Brain assessments taken each week.

Related: COVID-19 strategy 101: How to improve mental health

What it means to HR leaders

COVID-19 is undoubtedly taking an emotional toll on employees, with many surveys finding that employees are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, depression and burnout. But the results from the index find that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting women as far as mental anguish.

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Total Brain CEO Louis Gagnon calls the numbers “stunning,” while arguing the numbers shed “a light on an issue that cannot be ignored.”

“This universal mental health deterioration is unprecedented, underscoring the importance of assessing, monitoring and supporting brain health, particularly with women who have been playing double and triple roles since the pandemic erupted,” he says.

One reason women may be experiencing more mental issues is because women are often the primary caregivers of their children and the pandemic has left them taking care of children at home while struggling to get their work done.

Related: Is COVID-19 a turning point for workplace mental health?

The data is evidence that employers–and HR leaders–should step up in empathy, flexibility and benefit offerings to help employees, particularly women, in this unprecedented time. Some companies have rolled out childcare options and flexible hours. Others are adding and enhancing mental health benefits, from employee assistance programs to apps that focus on meditation and stress-reduction–which industry insiders say is especially important for helping employees get through the pandemic, experts say.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.