Michigan Association of Health Plans

How the Pandemic Affected Women’s Health

This story appeared in U.S. News. Read more here

The pandemic has changed the lives of people around the world, and has had a particularly unique impact on women. A larger number of women were driven out of the workforce as the country locked down, and for many, it’s been a major challenge to juggle remote work and family responsibilities during a period of economic uncertainty, limited child care options and unstable school arrangements.

A recent survey sheds further light on how the pandemic has affected women’s mental and physical health, beyond the obvious effects of the coronavirus itself. Commissioned by health care technology company athenahealth, the survey was completed by 1,000 adults in the U.S. and included questions about how their health habits and mental well-being have changed amid the pandemic.

Approximately two-thirds of women said their stress and/or anxiety increased during the pandemic, with 23% saying the increase was significant. Among men, 56% reported higher levels of such issues, but only 16% said the change was significant. Around a third of women surveyed said their stress and/or anxiety translated to worse habits in the realm of eating and exercising, while only 22% of men said the same.

Thirteen percent of women, compared with 7% of men, also said they had to skip doctor’s visits or avoid the health care system during the pandemic “due to factors outside my control,” such as finances, transportation or a physical disability.

The survey data additionally shows that millennials, or those born between 1981 and 1996, have struggled during the pandemic. Nearly 7 in 10 members of this generation reported increased stress and/or anxiety, and 38% said such issues led to worse eating and/or exercise habits. Data indicates millennials also were the most likely generation to avoid the health care system in 2020 due to fear of COVID-19 exposure.

A larger issue may be that millennials don’t feel like they can entirely trust their physicians to really listen to their concerns. Millennials were more likely than baby boomers, for example, to say they ever felt that “a healthcare provider did not take your concerns seriously” (61% compared with 46%). And 2 out of 3 millennials admitted they had health concerns they didn’t bring up to doctors “for fear of appearing anxious, dramatic or silly.”

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