Good parental leave gives a huge boost to a mother’s mental health

By Dennis Mann, Healthday Reporter

(health day)

THURSDAY, Jan. 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Generous parental leave policies at work can work wonders for a new mom’s mental health.

These are among the key messages from a new review of 45 studies looking at how parental leave policies affect father and mother’s mental health.

Mothers working at companies with generous parental leave policies were less likely to have symptoms of depression, poor mental health, psychological distress, burnout, or seek mental health care.

The new Swedish study shows that the more generous the policy, the greater and longer-lasting the benefits.

Parental leave was protective against deterioration in maternal mental health including depressive symptoms, general mental health, psychological distress and fatigue; however, improved mental health among mothers was associated with more generous parental leave policies. [such as] “Those with longer vacation or paid leave,” said the study’s author. Amy Hashmati. She is a doctoral student in the Department of Global Public Health at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

The findings for fathers have been less conclusive, she noted, but there haven’t been many studies done on the benefits of paid father’s leave and mental health yet.

Almost all countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—except the United States—offer new mothers at least 14 weeks of paid leave around childbirth. New mothers can take up to nine months of paid maternity leave in the UK.

Paid leave for new fathers tends to be shorter, and Israel, New Zealand, and the United States do not offer paid leave for the father. President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act initially intended to provide all American employees with four weeks of paid family leave, but that policy was excluded from the plan when it was signed into law. US workers are guaranteed only up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their jobs through Family and medical leave law.

“There is no single gold standard for parental leave, but many countries are making significant efforts to improve paternity leave plans through longer leave, greater wage substitution, and initiatives to encourage more equal gender participation in leave,” said Heshmati.

The transition to parenthood is stressful. She noted, “Parents face childcare challenges, career uncertainties, and financial pressures due to low income, all of which affect mental health.”

While the new review focused only on the mental health benefits of parental leave for mothers and fathers, these benefits could extend to the whole family.

“Mothers can take advantage of the time off from work to recover from pregnancy but also to feed and bond with their babies,” she said. “Breastfeeding is a known protective factor for a child’s health, but the practice requires that the mother spend time with the child.”

Describing the new research as “a valuable and comprehensive study on an important issue,” Darby Saxby She agreed that more generous family leave policies benefit the mother’s mental health. Saxby is Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The research on paid leave for new fathers is more preliminary, Saxby said, but “when fathers take paid paternity leave, their partners show lower risks for postpartum stress and depression.”

She added that maternal depression and other mental health problems are very costly to society.

“Depression is a major cause of absenteeism and absenteeism, increases the risk of many other chronic diseases, and can also translate into less sensitive parenting, and a higher risk of child abuse and neglect,” said Saxby.

Furthermore, mental health problems can affect many other aspects of work and family life. “If more generous family leave policies can prevent or reduce mental health problems, then it becomes a form of investment in health care,” Saxby concluded.

Emily Dickens She is the chief of staff, chief of public affairs, and corporate secretary for the Society for Human Resource Management, based in Alexandria, Virginia. She said the United States needs to develop a flexible framework for parental leave policies, based on company size, industry and job title.

“This framework could give more people the right to government-supported paid leave,” said Dickens, who is unrelated to the new study.

In creating policies, she said, employers should know what is most important to their employees.

Dickens noted, “Some might appreciate parental leave policies, others might be looking for an employer that would pay off their student loans, and still others might just want a higher base salary.”

SOURCES: Amy Hashmati, PhD student, Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Darby Saxby, Ph.D., Professor, Director, Clinical Internship, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Emily Dickens, Chief of Staff, Chief of Public Affairs, Corporate Secretary, Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, VA; the The Lancet Public HealthJanuary 1, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Health Day. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment