: 2020 was a record-setting year for ‘negative experiences’ — and women with small children topped the charts

United States

2020 was a particularly tough year for many people around the world — but moms with young kids may have had the worst go of it, according to a new Gallup report.

In a year largely defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, adults around the world set new records for experiences of anger, sadness, stress and worry, the study found. And women with children younger than 15 at home reported experiencing those feelings at higher levels than other groups.

To be sure, the “negative experience index” score for women with young kids had been ticking up in recent years too, outstripping scores for people without young kids and men with young kids. But the index score for moms with young children hit a high of 37 in 2020, while that of men with young children — 32 — remained constant from the year before.

“While 2020 was a record-setting year for negative emotions, the world was already heading in a negative direction well before the pandemic,” the Gallup report said. “But it undoubtedly compounded situations for many, including women with young children in the home, who were already dealing with these negative experiences.”

See also: Unlike previous downturns, women are bearing the brunt of the COVID recession — here’s why

The one negative experience that trended downward in 2020: physical pain. But even as all groups were less likely than they were in 2019 to report feeling physical pain, women with young kids were more likely to experience it than their counterparts.

Gallup based its index on surveys of people ages 15 and older conducted in 115 countries and areas in 2020 and early this year, with at least 1,000 respondents per country or area. The survey questions asked respondents whether they had experienced those feelings “during a lot of the day” in the preceding day.

“This is not to say that men with young children in the home have not been under pressure,” the report added, noting that women and men with young children in most regions of the world were more likely to report these negative experiences than those without young children. 

In the U.S., women have left the workforce in large numbers amid whiplash between school closures and reopenings, a child-care crisis, burnout and other economic stressors. 

Also read: COVID-19 forced working mothers to take time off work — rather than fathers

Many mothers in states with early shutdown orders had to choose between temporarily taking time off to care for children, or pulling longer hours on nights and weekends to balance domestic work, according to research published last summer by the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve.

Working moms’ “double shift” of housework and caregiving has only grown more demanding during the pandemic, a McKinsey & Co. analysis published in May also found.