After 2 years of COVID, new report finds California women struggle to find balance

Researchers found 70% of women reported mild to severe anxiety and more than half reported feeling depressed.

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Saturday, March 26, 2022
After 2 years of COVID, new data finds CA women struggle with balance
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Each year, for the past 11 years - Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles puts together a report on the status of Women and Girls in California.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Each year for the past 11 years, Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles puts together a report on the status of women and girls in California.

This year's report focuses on how the pandemic affected health.

Andrea Cortave, a 20-year-old living in Southern California, recalls how overnight, stay-at-home orders shifted her life.

"It was my first year of college, I just got a taste of it," she said.

Isolation and stress took its toll.

"I was going through the motion. I lost track of time," she recalled.

In the annual Status of Women and Girls in California report, researchers found 70% of women reported mild to severe anxiety and more than half reported feeling depressed.

"In 2019, only 19% of women were diagnosed as depressed. So that's a huge uptick in how women were experiencing this pandemic," said MSMU President, Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson.

The report also found racial disparities magnified. African American women are still more likely to die from breast or cervical cancer than Latina, white or Asian American women. Plus, African American women were six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than other groups.

READ ALSO | Race & mental health: Why people of color may be less likely to seek out services

Experts point to stigma, cost, and diversity among the mental health profession as some of the reasons people of color may not get help for their mental health. White Southern Californians are more than 2.5 times more likely to find a mental health professional that looks like them compared to people of color.

"Six times more likely, and this is in 2022. I mean, that number should stop us in our tracks," McElaney-Johnson said.

"Racism really does play a key role. There is an impact called 'weathering' which is dealing with chronic stress over time can really affect gene expression and can affect chronic diseases," said Dr. Nzinga Graham with Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

Graham said the pandemic deepened existing divides.

Preventive screenings plummeted. While not at pre-pandemic levels, the report found a majority of women are getting back on track.

"Now they're sort of hitting that point where they can't ignore those symptoms any longer," said Graham. The report also found burnout played a major role. Nearly 2 million women left the workforce nationwide.

"That is really because women were bearing a great deal of responsibility in terms of home life and in terms of work life," said McElaney-Johnson.

Researchers say workplaces need to find ways for employees to achieve more balance and believe change needs to happen institutionally and individually. Cortave is part of a peer wellness program at Mount Saint Mary's University.

"A great tool I learned was actually around changing your negative beliefs," she said.

Resiliency training and adopting a growth mindset has helped her manage adversity and change, challenges all women are dealing with as we transition to a new normal.

"It's just a matter of living in the moment and adapting to the situation," Cortave said.