Research

Changes in work and life patterns associated with COVID-19

It is known that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people limited going out, started working from home (WFH), and suspended work or lost their jobs - and that these changes could affect their mental health. Researchers in Japan investigated how such pandemic-related changes in work and life patterns were associated with depressive symptoms. Previous studies suggest that working from home increases employees’ well-being, whereas other studies show that it induces longer working hours and results in the overlapping responsibility of taking care of children by blurring boundaries between work and home time.

The researchers, from the Graduate School of Medicine and School of Public Health, Kyoto University, conducted an online survey among participants who use a health app called CALO mama from 30 April to 8 May 2020 in Japan. There were 2846 users (1150 men (mean age=50.3) and 1696 women (mean age=43.0)) who were working prior to the government declaration of a state of emergency (on 7 April - 13 May 2020). Their daily steps from 1 January to 13 May 2020 recorded by an accelerometer in their mobile devices were linked to their responses.  They also assessed depressive symptoms.

They found that on average, participants took 1143.8 fewer weekday steps during the declaration period. Depressive symptoms were positively associated with females, decreased weekday steps and increased working hours. Conversely, starting WFH was negatively associated with depressive symptoms.

The researchers concluded that decreased weekday steps during the declaration period were associated with increased odds of depressive symptoms, but that working from home may mitigate the risk in the short term. They recommended that further studies on the longitudinal effects of WFH on health are needed.
Read more: Koryu Sato, et al Changes in work and life patterns associated with depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic: an observational study of health app (CALO mama) users (Full text, Open access article) 

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