Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A new study from a University of Iowa researcher investigates the effects of employer-sponsored benefits on working women’s mental health. 

Jonathan Platt, UI Department of Epidemiology
Jonathan Platt

Jonathan Platt, assistant professor in the College of Public Health, examined whether employer-offered family benefits would reduce depression in working mothers. Family benefits include paid family leave and employer-sponsored child care. 

Platt also looked at nonfamily benefits, such as employer-provided health insurance and retirement pension programs, and how they can impact women’s mental health.

Platt examined data for 2,400 employed women enrolled in the National Longitudinal Survey, compiled by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. The women’s mental health was surveyed four times from 2010 to 2019, beginning when they were between 26 and 30 years old and ending when they were 35 to 39. 

Platt found family and nonfamily employee benefits improved the mental health of women who juggled workplace and home roles. He also found working mothers with children experienced more mental health challenges than working women without children. 

Other research has documented that tension between work and home responsibilities became more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic. Platt’s findings build upon that by suggesting employer-sponsored benefits could lessen depression symptoms in working mothers. 

“Ideally, we would have less stressful work arrangements, and formal and informal labor would be equally valued and compensated,” he says. “Ultimately, demonstrating and fighting for these kinds of benefits could be a part of what leads us to redefine our relationship with work.”

Other study authors are Lisa Bates and Katherine Keyes, from Columbia University; Justin Jager, from Arizona State University; and Katie McLaughlin, from Harvard University. The study, “Bringing home the benefits: Do pro-family employee benefits mitigate the risk of depression from competing workplace and domestic labor roles?” was published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology. 

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.