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Mothers Report Lower Quality of Life and Increased Pain One Year into the Pandemic, Reveals New Study

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A new study from the University of Agder reveals significant gender disparities in health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among parents of adolescents one year into the Covid pandemic. The research highlights that mothers experienced more pain and lower HRQOL compared to fathers, emphasising the unique challenges faced by mothers during this period. The findings were published in the journal BMC Public Health.

The Covid pandemic, which began in March 2020, introduced unprecedented stress and disruption worldwide. This study, conducted from January to February 2021, aimed to explore possible gender differences in stress, psychosocial factors (self-efficacy, self-esteem, loneliness), pain, health literacy (HL), and HRQOL among parents of adolescents aged 16–17 years old . The research sought to understand how these variables interrelated and their impact on parents’ HRQOL .

The study involved 320 parents from the southern part of Norway, who participated in a web-based survey . The survey collected data on demographics, stress, self-efficacy, self-esteem, pain, HL, loneliness, and HRQOL using validated questionnaires. HRQOL was assessed using the RAND-36 questionnaire, which includes domains such as general health, bodily pain, physical function, and mental health .

Mothers reported significantly higher levels of pain compared to fathers, which was strongly associated with lower physical HRQOL. The study used tools such as the Brief Pain Inventory and the Lübeck Pain-Screening Questionnaire to measure pain, and the findings indicated a persistent and significant impact of pain on mothers’ daily lives.

Stress was found to have a strong negative association with mental HRQOL. Mothers experienced higher levels of stress, which further contributed to lower mental HRQOL scores compared to fathers. Stress was measured using the Perceived Stress Questionnaire, highlighting that pandemic-related stressors had a pronounced effect on mothers.

The study also revealed differences in psychosocial factors between mothers and fathers. Mothers reported lower self-efficacy and self-esteem, and higher levels of loneliness. These factors were significantly associated with lower HRQOL. The General Self-Efficacy Scale and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale were used to assess these variables, revealing critical insights into the psychosocial burdens carried by mothers during the pandemic.

While high health literacy was noted among the well-educated sample, it did not significantly mitigate the negative impacts of stress and pain on HRQOL. Health literacy was measured using the Health Literacy Questionnaire, and the findings suggested that even with sufficient health information, the psychosocial and physical burdens remained significant for mothers.

The findings underscore the need for targeted interventions to support mothers, particularly those experiencing chronic pain and high stress levels. The study suggests designing HRQOL interventions that specifically address the needs of mothers, including better pain management strategies and psychosocial support systems. Furthermore, providing relevant information and guidance tailored to parents of adolescents could help mitigate stress and improve overall quality of life.

For policymakers and healthcare professionals, these insights highlight the importance of prioritising mental health and pain management in pandemic response strategies. By addressing the unique challenges faced by mothers, it is possible to enhance their HRQOL and support their well-being during and beyond the pandemic.

The study advocates for longitudinal research to further explore these findings, with a focus on data collected before, during, and after the pandemic. Future studies should include parents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the pandemic’s impact on HRQOL across different populations. Additionally, examining other health-related data, such as exercise and lifestyle factors, could offer deeper insights into the determinants of HRQOL in parents.

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