ECEC one of the core groups experiencing mental health drop as a result of COVID-19

by Freya Lucas

June 04, 2020

A number of professional groups, including early childhood education and care (ECEC), have been identified as experiencing a decline in mental health as a result of reduced salaries and recent job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Integrated HR solutions provider, Morneau Shepell, released its May 2020 Mental Health Index(TM) results yesterday. Measuring against a benchmark of 75, employees whose salaries were reduced in May reported a negative mental health score (-22.4), similar to those who recently lost their jobs (-23.2). 

 

For context, sixty per cent of Australian respondents indicated that they remained employed at the same income level, 34 per cent indicated either a reduction in hours or salary and six per cent reported recent job loss.

 

People in households with only one adult, including single parents, experienced the lowest Mental Health Index(TM) scores of any group (-17.9 compared to the benchmark of 75). The main factors affecting this group’s mental health include the stress of being alone or trying to manage children alone.

 

While the May results showed a slight improvement in Australians’ mental health compared to the sharp and unprecedented dive it took in April with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health of the population as a whole in Australia is equivalent to the bottom one per cent of the benchmark.

 

When the findings were split into various sectors and industries, ECEC, included in the broader category of educational services, was one of the groups at the lower end of the scale, benchmarking at -17.4. Others in the lower end include wholesale trade (-18.8); administrative and support services (-16.9); and food services (-22.4). 

 

Meanwhile, respondents who worked in public administration; professional, scientific and technical services; and retail trade saw the greatest improvements.

 

Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Morneau Shepell Australia operations said that as the pandemic continues, the Mental Health Index(TM) will track “the devastating impact that ongoing disruption can have on the quality of Australian workers’ mental health.” 

 

“We’re seeing early signs of hope in certain areas, but will remain committed to supporting the mental health of Australian employees.”

 

Employees who had access to an employee assistance program had better Mental Health Index(TM) scores (-12.6) than those who did not (-16.4) compared to the benchmark of 75.

 

Overall, the Mental Health Index(TM) “shows deteriorating confidence that the personal disruption caused by the pandemic will end relatively soon.”

 

In April, 21 per cent believed that the COVID-19 threat would not end until at least January 2021. Now, 24 per cent of respondents (the largest group) are preparing for the disruption to end no earlier than January 2021.

 

The financial impact of the pandemic remains the biggest concern for Australians, with 57 per cent worried about the ongoing economic consequences of COVID-19. Other worries are around becoming ill, the loss of a loved one, and uncertainty caused by the virus. 

 

Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation for Morneau Shepell said the index “is critical in helping us understand changes to mental health over time. The pandemic is not a temporary issue. It is a major life and economic shift that will have ups and downs.” 

 

“We need to be aware of potential risk to ensure support is available to those in need. The slight improvement in May is encouraging. We also need to prepare for the impact of the second and perhaps third wave, which may have an even more profound impact than the first wave.”

 

Morneau Shepell will continue publishing the Mental Health Index(TM) on a monthly basis. It will assess changes in mental health and the issues that Australians are most anxious about as the situation and outlook evolves during and after the pandemic.

 

The full Australian report can be found here

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