skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2023

Title: A comparison of stress, symptoms, physical activity, and adiposity among women at midlife before and during the pandemic
Abstract Background The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that disproportionately impacted women. Household roles typically performed by women (such as resource acquisition and caretaking) became more difficult due to financial strain, fear of infection, and limited childcare options among other concerns. This research draws from an on-going study of hot flashes and brown adipose tissue to examine the health-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic among 162 women aged 45–55 living in western Massachusetts. Methods We compared women who participated in the study pre- and early pandemic with women who participated mid-pandemic and later-pandemic (when vaccines became widely available). We collected self-reported symptom frequencies (e.g., aches/stiffness in joints, irritability), and assessments of stress, depression, and physical activity through questionnaires as well as measures of adiposity (BMI and percent body fat). Additionally, we asked open-ended questions about how the pandemic influenced women’s health and experience of menopause. Comparisons across pre-/early, mid-, and later pandemic categories were carried out using ANOVA and Chi-square analyses as appropriate. The Levene test for homogeneity of variances was examined prior to each ANOVA. Open-ended questions were analyzed for yes/no responses and general themes. Results Contrary to our hypothesis that women would suffer negative health-related consequences during the COVID-19 more » pandemic, we found no significant differences in women’s health-related measures or physical activity across the pandemic. However, our analysis of open-ended responses revealed a bi-modal distribution of answers that sheds light on our unexpected findings. While some women reported higher levels of stress and anxiety and lower levels of physical activity, other women reported benefitting from the remote life that the pandemic imposed and described having more time to spend on physical activity or in quality time with their families. Conclusions In this cross-sectional comparison of women during the pre-/early, mid-, and later-pandemic, we found no significant differences across means in multiple health-related variables. However, open-ended questions revealed that while some women suffered health-related effects during the pandemic, others experienced conditions that improved their health and well-being. The differential results of this study highlight a need for more nuanced and intersectional research on risk, vulnerabilities, and coping among mid-life women. « less
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Women's Midlife Health
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Ryckman, Kelli K (Ed.)
    Background Technology enables the continuous monitoring of personal health parameter data during pregnancy regardless of the disruption of normal daily life patterns. Our research group has established a project investigating the usefulness of an Internet of Things–based system and smartwatch technology for monitoring women during pregnancy to explore variations in stress, physical activity and sleep. The aim of this study was to examine daily patterns of well-being in pregnant women before and during the national stay-at-home restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland. Methods A longitudinal cohort study design was used to monitor pregnant women in their everyday settings. Two cohorts of pregnant women were recruited. In the first wave in January-December 2019, pregnant women with histories of preterm births (gestational weeks 22–36) or late miscarriages (gestational weeks 12–21); and in the second wave between October 2019 and March 2020, pregnant women with histories of full-term births (gestational weeks 37–42) and no pregnancy losses were recruited. The final sample size for this study was 38 pregnant women. The participants continuously used the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch and their heart rate variability, and physical activity and sleep data were collected. Subjective stress, activity and sleep reports were collected using amore »smartphone application developed for this study. Data between February 12 to April 8, 2020 were included to cover four-week periods before and during the national stay-at-home restrictions. Hierarchical linear mixed models were exploited to analyze the trends in the outcome variables. Results The pandemic-related restrictions were associated with changes in heart rate variability: the standard deviation of all normal inter-beat intervals (p = 0.034), low-frequency power (p = 0.040) and the low-frequency/high-frequency ratio (p = 0.013) increased compared with the weeks before the restrictions. Women’s subjectively evaluated stress levels also increased significantly. Physical activity decreased when the restrictions were set and as pregnancy proceeded. The total sleep time also decreased as pregnancy proceeded, but pandemic-related restrictions were not associated with sleep. Daily rhythms changed in that the participants overall started to sleep later and woke up later. Conclusions The findings showed that Finnish pregnant women coped well with the pandemic-related restrictions and lockdown environment in terms of stress, physical activity and sleep.« less
  2. Lin, Chung-Ying (Ed.)
    Background University students are increasingly recognized as a vulnerable population, suffering from higher levels of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and disordered eating compared to the general population. Therefore, when the nature of their educational experience radically changes—such as sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic—the burden on the mental health of this vulnerable population is amplified. The objectives of this study are to 1) identify the array of psychological impacts COVID-19 has on students, 2) develop profiles to characterize students' anticipated levels of psychological impact during the pandemic, and 3) evaluate potential sociodemographic, lifestyle-related, and awareness of people infected with COVID-19 risk factors that could make students more likely to experience these impacts. Methods Cross-sectional data were collected through web-based questionnaires from seven U.S. universities. Representative and convenience sampling was used to invite students to complete the questionnaires in mid-March to early-May 2020, when most coronavirus-related sheltering in place orders were in effect. We received 2,534 completed responses, of which 61% were from women, 79% from non-Hispanic Whites, and 20% from graduate students. Results Exploratory factor analysis on close-ended responses resulted in two latent constructs, which we used to identify profiles of students with latent profile analysis, including high (45%more »of sample), moderate (40%), and low (14%) levels of psychological impact. Bivariate associations showed students who were women, were non-Hispanic Asian, in fair/poor health, of below-average relative family income, or who knew someone infected with COVID-19 experienced higher levels of psychological impact. Students who were non-Hispanic White, above-average social class, spent at least two hours outside, or less than eight hours on electronic screens were likely to experience lower levels of psychological impact. Multivariate modeling (mixed-effects logistic regression) showed that being a woman, having fair/poor general health status, being 18 to 24 years old, spending 8 or more hours on screens daily, and knowing someone infected predicted higher levels of psychological impact when risk factors were considered simultaneously. Conclusion Inadequate efforts to recognize and address college students’ mental health challenges, especially during a pandemic, could have long-term consequences on their health and education.« less
  3. Abstract Background Encounters with rats in urban areas increase risk of human exposure to rat-associated zoonotic pathogens and act as a stressor associated with psychological distress. The frequency and nature of human-rat encounters may be altered by social distancing policies to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, restaurant closures may reduce food availability for rats and promote rat activity in nearby residential areas, thus increasing public health risks during a period of public health crisis. In this study, we aimed to identify factors associated with increased perceived exposure to rats during a stay-at-home order, describe residents’ encounters with rats relevant to their health and well-being, and identify factors associated with increased use of rodent control. Methods Urban residents in Chicago, a large city with growing concerns about rats and health disparities, completed an online questionnaire including fixed response and open-ended questions during the spring 2020 stay-at-home order. Analyses included ordinal multivariate regression, spatial analysis, and thematic analysis for open-ended responses. Results Overall, 21% of respondents ( n  = 835) reported an increase in rat sightings around their homes during the stay-at-home order and increased rat sightings was positively associated with proximity to restaurants, low-rise apartment buildings, and rat feces in themore »home ( p  ≤ 0.01). Many respondents described feeling unsafe using their patio or yard, and afraid of rats entering their home or spreading disease. Greater engagement with rodent control was associated with property ownership, information about rat control, and areas with lower incomes ( p  ≤ 0.01). Conclusions More frequent rat encounters may be an unanticipated public health concern during periods of social distancing, especially in restaurant-dense areas or in low-rise apartment buildings. Rat presence may also limit residents’ ability to enjoy nearby outdoor spaces, which otherwise might buffer stress experienced during a stay-at-home order. Proactive rat control may be needed to mitigate rat-associated health risks during future stay-at-home orders.« less
  4. Abstract Extreme heat is a major threat to human health worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its complexity and global reach, created unprecedented challenges for public health and highlighted societal vulnerability to hazardous hot weather. In this study, we used data from a three-wave nationally representative survey of 3036 American adults to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic affected extreme heat vulnerability during the summer of 2020. We used mixed effects models to examine the roles of socio-demographic characteristics and pandemic-related factors in the distribution of negative heat effects and experiences across the United States. The survey findings show that over a quarter of the US population experienced heat-related symptoms during the summer of 2020. Mixed effects models demonstrate that among all socio-economic groups, those who were most vulnerable were women, those in low-income households, unemployed or on furlough, and people who identify as Hispanic or Latino or as other non-white census categories (including Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and multi-racial US residents). The study findings indicate that millions of people in the US had difficulty coping with or responding to extreme heat because of the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Limitedmore »access to cooling as well as COVID-19 related social isolation played a major role in adverse heat health effects. Geographically, the South and the West of the US stood out in terms of self-reported negative heat effects. Overall, the study suggests that the intersection of two health hazards—extreme heat and coronavirus SARS-CoV2—amplified existing systemic vulnerabilities and expanded the demographic range of people vulnerable to heat stress.« less
  5. COVID-19 resulted in health and logistical challenges for many sectors of the American economy, including the trucking industry. This study examined how the pandemic impacted the trucking industry, focused on the pandemic’s impacts on company operations, health, and stress of trucking industry employees. Data were collected from three sources: surveys, focus groups, and social media posts. Individuals at multiple organizational levels of trucking companies (i.e., supervisors, upper-level management, and drivers) completed an online survey and participated in online focus groups. Data from focus groups were coded using a thematic analysis approach. Publicly available social media posts from Twitter were analyzed using a sentiment analysis framework to assess changes in public sentiment about the trucking industry pre- and during-COVID-19. Two themes emerged from the focus groups: (1) trucking company business strategies and adaptations and (2) truck driver experiences and workplace safety. Participants reported supply chain disruptions and new consumer buying trends as having larger industry-wide impacts. Company adaptability emerged due to freight variability, leading organizations to pivot business models and create solutions to reduce operational costs. Companies responded to COVID-19 by accommodating employees’ concerns and implementing safety measures. Truck drivers noted an increase in positive public perception of truck drivers, butmore »job quality factors worsened due to closed amenities and decreased social interaction. Social media sentiment analysis also illustrated an increase in positive public sentiment towards the trucking industry during COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in multi-level economic, health, and social impacts on the trucking industry, which included economic impacts on companies and economic, social and health impacts on employees within the industry levels. Further research can expand on this study to provide an understanding of the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the trucking industry companies within the industry and segments of the trucking industry workforce.« less