Gender Equality in Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic and Leisure Time
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Introduction: A cross-sectional and longitudinal study was conducted among parents (N=483) in the Netherlands. The aim of this study was to investigate if mothers mental health was lower during the COVID-19 pandemic than fathers, and whether this difference between mothers and fathers was mediated by the difference in experienced leisure time change as a result of COVID-19 measures. Methods: Participants completed three different questionnaires from the LISS panel with regards to Health and Gender inequalities in times of the Covid-19 pandemic and answered questions about their mental health and leisure time. Data was analyzed using the Baron and Kenny method for mediation analysis. Results: The results provided support for the relation between gender and mental health. Mothers reported a lower mental health than fathers. The results also provided support for a relation between gender and change in leisure time. Mothers were more likely to experience a decrease in leisure time than fathers. However, the results did not provide support for a mediation of leisure time change in the relation between gender and mental health. Finally, results showed a gender difference in effect of leisure time on mental health. Discussion: This study found a mental health gap between fathers and mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this gap is not different from the existing gap prior to the pandemic. Leisure time change does not mediate the relation between gender and mental health, which can be explained by the result that leisure time has a different effect on mental health for fathers, compared to mothers. This study suggests that in potential future COVID-19 measures, attention should be paid to the impact of these measures on gender differences in leisure time and mental health. In order not to increase gender differences, but to reduce them.