Pregnant Employee Experiencing Workplace Harassment Has Higher Risk of Depression, Reveals Study

January 22, 2021

Pregnant Employee Experiencing Workplace Harassment Has Higher Risk of Depression, Reveals Study

Mental Health

Maternity harassment (MH) or pregnancy discrimination is linked to depression, suggests a recent study. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health, 25 percent of pregnant employees are harassed by supervisors and/or colleagues, which is expected to raise their risk of developing depression by 2.5 times than those who had not experienced MH.

“We observed a significant association between MH and depression during pregnancy. This result is consistent with both our hypothesis and the findings of previous longitudinal studies conducted in the US, which suggest that perceived MH is indirectly associated with mothers’ postpartum depressive symptoms mediated by perceived stress during pregnancy,” say researchers.

The study is significant in the view that more than 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claims have been filed over the last decade across the United States. It is important to note that the MH‐depression association observed in our study was independent of the stress caused by the spread of COVID‐19, as the association was significant after adjustment for the fear of COVID‐19.

Before the onset of COVID‐19 pandemic, employees working part‐time employees had comparatively lesser risk of experiencing MH than full‐time permanent employees. This is probably due to the fact non‐regular employees could choose to resign voluntarily during pregnancy and were less likely to feel pressure to work longer and harder.

However, COVID‐19 business closures changed the situation. According to the Labor Force Survey on May 2020,21 compared to the same month last year, the number of part‐time employees fell by 680,000 to 14.07 million, while the number of full‐time employees fell by only 10,000 to 35.34 million. As for the type of occupation, the number of employees dropped significantly in the service sector, including hotels, restaurants, and apparel. Thus, pregnant part‐time employees could be the first to be fired or dismissed due to their vulnerable position. Since the economic situation is predicted to continue to deteriorate, part‐time employees will continue to be vulnerable to MH for a while.

In addition, the results suggest that teleworking could be effective in reducing the effect of maternal harassment on depression.

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