Associations Between Employment Changes and Mental Health: US Data From During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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McDowell, Cillian
Herring, Matthew
Lansing, Jeni
Brower, Cassandra
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Meyer, Jacob
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The Department of Kinesiology seeks to provide an ample knowledge of physical activity and active living to students both within and outside of the program; by providing knowledge of the role of movement and physical activity throughout the lifespan, it seeks to improve the lives of all members of the community. Its options for students enrolled in the department include: Athletic Training; Community and Public Health; Exercise Sciences; Pre-Health Professions; and Physical Education Teacher Licensure. The Department of Physical Education was founded in 1974 from the merger of the Department of Physical Education for Men and the Department of Physical Education for Women. In 1981 its name changed to the Department of Physical Education and Leisure Studies. In 1993 its name changed to the Department of Health and Human Performance. In 2007 its name changed to the Department of Kinesiology. Dates of Existence: 1974-present. Historical Names: Department of Physical Education (1974-1981), Department of Physical Education and Leisure Studies (1981-1993), Department of Health and Human Performance (1993-2007). Related Units: College of Human Sciences (parent college), College of Education (parent college, 1974 - 2005), Department of Physical Education for Women (predecessor) Department of Physical Education for Men
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Objectives: To examine associations of changing employment conditions, specifically switching to working from home (WFH) or job loss, with mental health, using data collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Data from 2,301 US adults in employment prior to COVID-19 were collected April 3rd−7th, 2020. Participants reported whether their employment remained unchanged, they were WFH when they had not been before, or they had lost their job due to the pandemic. Outcomes were symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness, and positive mental health (PMH) assessed using validated questionnaires. Linear regression quantified associations of employment changes with mental health outcomes, controlling for age, sex, race, BMI, smoking status, screen time, physical activity, marital status, chronic conditions, and current COVID-19 containment strategies being followed. Results: Compared to participants whose employment remained unchanged, those who switched to WFH did not differ in any measures of mental health (all p ≥ 0.200). Participants who had lost their job reported higher symptoms of depression (g = −0.200, 95%CI = −0.333 to −0.067; p = 0.003), anxiety (g = −0.212, −0.363 to −0.061; p = 0.008), and stress (g = −0.348, −0.482 to −0.214; p < 0.001), and lower PMH (g = −0.212, −0.347 to −0.078; p = 0.002). Loneliness did not differ between groups (p = 0.087). Conclusion: This study demonstrates (1) that concerns around potential adverse mental health effects, particularly increases in loneliness, should not preclude WFH in the general population, while considering each individual's personal circumstances, and (2) the acute adverse association of job loss with mental health. Tailored and sensitive interventions may be required to prevent deteriorations in mental health associated with job loss during periods of societal stress.
This article is published as McDowell CP, Herring MP, Lansing J, Brower CS and Meyer JD (2021) Associations Between Employment Changes and Mental Health: US Data From During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Front. Psychol. 12:631510. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.631510. Posted with permission.
© 2021 McDowell, Herring, Lansing, Brower and Meyer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.