Pregnant Then Screwed’s Leave in the Lurch Report examined the relationship between parental leave and mental health.
According to a new YouGov-conducted survey, for which Pregnant Then Screwed partnered with the Centre for Progressive Policy, almost a fifth of parents said they had experienced a new mental health problem in the two years following the birth of their youngest child.
When asked about their partner’s health as well as their own, 29% of parents said either they or their partner had experienced a new mental health issue with 11% saying that they or their partner had received support from the NHS.
Worryingly, nearly half (45%) of parents who reported that they or their partner had experienced a new mental health issue reported having not received any form of treatment or support.
The poll also showed that increasing paternity leave would improve mothers’ mental health. 71% of people thought that it would have a positive impact, rising to 83% for mothers of under-12s.
Ben Franklin, Director of Research & Policy, Centre for Progressive Policy, said, “While long-held societal norms about gendered parenting roles are shifting, the UK’s parental leave system has not kept pace. As a result, women still provide significantly more childcare compared to men, perpetuating gender inequalities in the labour market which damage women’s careers, long-term earnings and the UK economy as a whole.
“If the UK is to compete with our international peers, government policy must send a strong signal about the importance of both parents’ role in providing childcare from the very beginning of a child’s life.”
Mental health issues were more likely to affect those on a low income with 36% of those with a personal income below £10k saying that they or their partner had experienced a new mental health issue after having children.
Perinatal mental health problems costs the NHS £1.2bn a year and the failure to address perinatal mental health problems costs even more – social costs are estimated to be around £8.1bn a year.
A high proportion of mothers with children under the age of 12 (65%) also said that increasing statutory paternity leave would have a positive impact on a mother’s readiness to return to work.