Anxiety at Record Highs Among Mothers, Especially Gen Z Moms: Survey
- Most moms are feeling anxious. Over two-thirds (68 percent) say they are experiencing anxiety, with more than a third (35 percent) reporting current levels as “moderate” to “severe.”
- Gen Z moms report higher levels of anxiety than Millennial moms. Gen Z is most likely to say they are wrestling with anxiety (79 percent), and nearly half (45 percent) report “moderate” to “severe” anxiety.
- Money is a big source of stress for mothers. Family finances and inflation are the biggest contributors to high anxiety levels (71 percent).
- Parents need more support. The majority of moms (75 percent) say they don’t have enough support in the form of a “village.”
- Gen Z feels more pressure to be perfect parents. When asked to review 25 different parenting ideals — from “keeping the kids busy with activities” to “maintaining a clean and tidy home” — Gen Z moms consistently aspired to reach greater heights than their Millennial counterparts.
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic left an indelible mark on the lives of families. In addition to illness and possible loss of income, parents have grappled with child care challenges, virtual school and less access to support systems like grandparents — all while waiting a full extra year for their younger children to be eligible for their shots.
Although many people are returning to their pre-pandemic routines, mothers continue to struggle. In fact, the moms we surveyed say they actually feel more anxious now than they did at other points during the pandemic.
To better understand the mounting post-pandemic burnout that mothers are feeling, What to Expect’s parent company, Everyday Health Group, surveyed more than 3,000 women between the ages of 18 and 54 who were either pregnant or had at least one child up to 8 years old.
Read on for more about the survey results, including what’s contributing to mothers’ high anxiety levels.
Anxiety levels among moms aren’t improving, even as the pandemic does
The world is a very different place today than it was in April 2020: COVID-19 vaccines are now available for everyone 6 months and older, quarantine restrictions have loosened, and hospitalization and death rates continue to decline. But even as things slowly return to normal, many mothers say they are wrestling with anxiety levels that mirror those they felt during the very beginning of the pandemic.
Our survey found that 68 percent of mothers are experiencing feelings of anxiety, and 35 percent rate those feelings as “moderate” to “severe.”
Younger moms report particularly high anxiety levels. Seventy nine percent of Gen Z mothers say they are dealing with feelings of anxiety, and 45 percent rate their feelings as “moderate” to “severe.” Sixty four percent of Millennial mothers say they are experiencing some anxiety, while 32 percent label those feelings as “moderate” to “severe.”
Family finances and inflation are the biggest sources of anxiety
While several factors are contributing to these higher levels of anxiety and burnout, the rising cost of living and family finances in general appear to be the most significant stressors.
For example, 71 percent of moms list family finances and inflation as the largest contributors to their anxiety. Rising gas prices are another source of stress (39 percent), which is even more worrisome for moms than some issues relating to their children, such as their kids’ sleep habits (26 percent). Mothers who are unemployed are struggling from higher rates of anxiety (81 percent), as well as those with household incomes below $75,000.
Children’s developmental progress is also a great area of concern, at almost the same level as concerns over finances. Sixty eight percent of mothers say their child meeting milestones and doing well in school is a top priority for them. Mothers are also feeling pressure to be home more to watch and guide their children’s developmental and emotional progress (67 percent).
Families are missing support in the form of “villages”
“It takes a village to raise a child,” according to the famous African proverb. But most moms (75 percent) say they don’t have enough support from family or friends. Sixty percent of moms agree that compared to 10 years ago, parents are less likely to have other family members living nearby, a sentiment that has increased 21 percent since we last asked this statement in 2019. And 51 percent of mothers say they simply don’t have a “village” outside of their partner and themselves to turn to.
Still, even those with support networks are feeling anxiety. Our survey found that Gen Z mothers are more likely to have support from their parents than Millennial moms, yet younger mothers are also more likely to experience higher anxiety levels.
The desire to be a perfect parent is contributing to anxiety among Gen Z moms
With her perfectly ironed apron and ability to have dinner on the table every night when her partner got home from work, June Cleaver on “Leave It To Beaver” was a 1950s symbol of the “perfect mom.” But while the face of motherhood has changed over the years, perfectionism continues to be something that parents strive for, our survey found.
When asked to review 25 different parenting ideals — from “keeping the kids busy with activities” to “maintaining a clean and tidy home” — Gen Z moms consistently aspired to reach greater heights than their Millennial counterparts. On the other hand, Millennials only over-indexed with four different values: “model a strong work ethic,” “earn an income,” “encourage family’s religious/spiritual life,” and “have a successful partnership/marriage.”
There’s no doubt that being a parent can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it can also be stressful and anxiety-producing. Parenting became even more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, as families found themselves navigating unprecedented stressors.
Unfortunately, even as the pandemic has waned, the load hasn’t lightened for mothers. In fact, it seems that the pandemic has introduced new and different challenges that have contributed to anxiety levels rising above what they were in the pandemic’s earliest days.
Some moms may even be pushing themselves to the limit in an effort to be all things to everyone, and they are feeling the overwhelming pressure of that unrealistic expectation. As moms continue to navigate rising costs and limited support, it might help to remember that there’s no such thing as a “perfect parent,” and you are exactly the mother your child needs.
Motherhood Matrix Study Methodology
Everyday Health Group Pregnancy & Parenting surveyed 3,232 women in October 2022 for its Motherhood Matrix Study. Respondents were U.S. women, age 18-54 who were either pregnant or have a child 0 to 8 years old.
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