MPIDR Working Paper

Mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of partnership and parenthood status in growing disparities between types of families.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-013, 50 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (June 2021)
Open Access


This study set out to investigate mental health inequalities by family type and gender during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany. We analyzed three dimensions of mental health (i.e., self-reported stress, exhaustion, and loneliness) one year before the pandemic and in spring 2020. First, two-parent families emerge as a vulnerable group, as they experienced the largest increases in levels of stress and exhaustion, converging with those experienced by single parents. Second, a gender gap emerges during this global health crisis, with women, and particularly mothers, carrying the heaviest burdens, and having the greatest mental health declines. The findings presented here underline the empirical and substantive value of studying mental health inequality from a multidimensional perspective and over time. Based on these findings, we urge policy-makers to consider more seriously the disproportionate burdens that members of families, and women in particular, have been carrying due to the pandemic, both directly and indirectly.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.