Majority of Parents Experience Isolation, Loneliness, and Burnout, Survey Reveals

A recent national survey conducted by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has shed light on the struggles faced by many parents. The survey found that a significant majority of parents experience isolation, loneliness, and burnout due to the demands of parenthood, with many feeling a lack of support in their role.

According to the survey, about two-thirds (66%) of parents felt that the demands of parenthood sometimes or frequently feel isolating and lonely, while 62% reported feeling burned out by their responsibilities as a parent. Additionally, nearly 2 in 5 (38%) parents felt they had no one to support them in their parenting role, and nearly 4 in 5 (79%) expressed that they would value a way to connect with other parents outside of work and home.

The Impact of Social Isolation on Parents

Kate Gawlik, DNP, an associate clinical professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing and a researcher on parental burnout, emphasized the negative impacts of loneliness on both physical and mental health. “Loneliness has been shown to affect both your physical and mental health,” Gawlik explained. “So anything from cardiovascular disease to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, even your immune system can be affected when you’re lonely. In fact, one study showed if you are in social isolation for a prolonged amount of time, it’s equivalent to smoking about 15 cigarettes a day.”

In response to the realities of parental isolation, loneliness, and burnout, Gawlik created a six-week parenting program that brings parents together to be vulnerable, commiserate about challenges they face, and find support. Anne Helms, a mother of two young children in Columbus, Ohio, who participated in the program, said, “I think the biggest thing is she validated that if you’re working and you have children and you’re a conscientious parent, it would be wild if you weren’t burned out. So I felt very validated when she said, ‘It’s okay that you’re here.'”

Gawlik recommends that parents seek out support groups in their community, whether they are hosted at community centers or through their employer. She also suggests looking for playgroups, book clubs, recreational sports leagues, or initiating playdates with their children’s friends from childcare.

“Parenting can feel very lonely at times, but it will be easier if you have people around who can support you,” Gawlik said. “It can be hard to start seeking out connections because, to some degree, you will have to be vulnerable and, sometimes, it will take time and effort. But just take the first step.”



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